June 05, 2014
Ponds, ditches, puddles and isolated wetlands on farms across the U.S. soon could be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if a proposed rule is approved. The rule would expand the definition of “waters of the U.S.” to include previously unregulated waters and dry land, bringing more farms, homes and businesses under increased scrutiny.
Alabama’s seven U.S. representatives joined a bipartisan group of 231 congressmen who sent a letter to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers May 1 asking the proposed rule to be withdrawn. As a member of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and the seven other Republican committee members sent a letter to President Barack Obama in April detailing concerns with the rule.
“The actions of our congressional delegation show our elected representatives understand the dire implications of giving the EPA expanded jurisdiction,” said Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker. “This is a bad rule, and it would add more expense and frustration for farmers who are dealing with too many federal rules as it is.”
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the proposal could, among other things, require farmers to obtain federal permits to build a fence across a ditch or apply fertilizer and pesticides in previously unregulated areas. Ultimately, the EPA could have authority to prevent farmers’ regular operations based on an ambiguous definition of a water.
“In two separate cases, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed limits on EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act,” Walker said. “If this rule moves forward, it would allow the EPA to regulate essentially any body of water — including areas of land that are dry most of the time. This really boils down to private property rights, and we have to ensure these rights are protected.”
The 370-page rule is open for public comments through July 21. AFBF recently requested the deadline be extended.
To submit a comment on the rule, visit AlfaFarmers.org and click on the Legislative Action Center link.