New Jersey Ag News
Whoa, WOTUS. Whoa! (Editorial)
(March 14, 2017) It was no surprise. You could see it coming. President Donald Trump had railed against it in the campaign. Its full force had been stalled and under challenge by several lawsuits.
The tide is going out on WOTUS.
The rule, entitled Waters of the United States, was promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency during the heyday of the Obama administration.
Under its provisions, a ditch running through a farmer’s field or a small uncertain pond in a pasture could be declared waters of the United States and thus subject to all the environmental regulations levied on large bodies of waters.
On Feb. 28, Trump signed an executive order instructing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review WOTUS and its justification under the Clean Water Act.
The order asks the heads of the agencies to publish a proposed rule rescinding or revising the waters rule for notice and comment — the first step in what is likely to be a year-long administrative review process that many expect to end up at the Supreme Court.
At a White House signing ceremony, the president called the rule, which has never been implemented because of a series of lawsuits, “one of the worst examples of federal regulation” that he said “has truly run amok.”
Trump’s order to begin the process of voiding WOTUS, as expected was hailed by the nation’s farm organization.
Describing the flawed Waters of the U.S. rule as nothing more than a federal land grab, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said Trump’s executive order to ditch the rule “is a welcome relief to farmers and ranchers across the country.”
Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association, who farms in the Mississippi River watershed in western Illinois, said that farmers “can be a productive voice in the discussion over water regulation, and we look for a seat at the table, because as farmers, our primary goals are the healthy soils and clean water that sustain us from growing season to growing season.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by NCGA President Wesley Spurlock
“We fully support the repeal of the WOTUS rule. Farmers and ranchers care deeply about clean water, but this rule had significant flaws. It was arbitrarily written, legally indefensible, and extremely difficult to implement.”
All of this was foreshadowed by the general disdain of large segments of the nation’s citizenry. WOTUS had been challenged in courts by more than 30 states and numerous industry groups.
In October 2015, a federal appeals court issued a stay preventing the rule’s implementation.
That stay will now become permanent.
Duvall charged that EPA “failed to listen to farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns when drafting the rule and instead created widespread confusion for agriculture. Under the rule, the smallest pond or ditch could be declared a federal waterway.”
It was that sort of nonsense that has characterized the EPA through the years. If the federal government is intent on regulatory reform, then it has to fall within the realm of common sense.
We trust that if future applications of the Clean Water Act emerge, they will be transparent, logical and certainly fair to the nation’s farmers.