Alabama farmers joined businesses, local governments and landowners across the country in expressing concern over a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).
Alabama Farmers Federation National Affairs Director Mitt Walker said the June 10 announcement sets in motion another drawn-out debate over EPA’s enforcement authority and application of the Clean Water Act.
“It is terribly disappointing that the Biden Administration is taking action to withdraw and replace the Trump-era rule that finally brought some clarity to the regulatory process,” Walker said. “It appears the agencies have chosen to totally discount the benefits of state-level regulations and voluntary conservation programs embraced by farmers.”
Walker said the NWPR will remain the law of the land while EPA drafts a new rule. Any new interpretation will likely face court challenges, and it could be years before the issue is resolved.
The NWPR replaced EPA’s controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Under the Obama-era rule, EPA could have extended its authority beyond navigable waters to include “waters” as small as wet-weather ditches and springs.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said reversing the NWPR will create uncertainty and confusion for farmers and ranchers.
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency determined the current rule is leading to “significant environmental degradation.”
“We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities,” he said.
Duvall said EPA failed to engage farmers and landowners before announcing plans to repeal the rule. He also challenged Regan and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to study the impact on farmers before implementing burdensome rules.
“We call on EPA to respect the statute, recognize the burden that overreaching regulation places on farmers and ranchers, and not write the term ‘navigable’ out of the Clean Water Act,” Duvall said. “Clean water and clarity are paramount, and that is why farmers shouldn’t need a team of lawyers and consultants to farm.”