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Agricultural News

EPA Administrator Explains and Defends Proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule

Tue, 06 May 2014 17:58:49 CDT

EPA Administrator Explains and Defends Proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule
The EPA's recently proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule has drawn fire from many quarters, not the least of which is from farm and agricultural groups. Congressional opponents of the proposal say it is nothing more than a power grab by the EPA to regulate practically every aspect of land use that could present even the slightest possibility of ever impacting water that could one day end up in a navigable river or lake.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is aggressively pushing the rule against the objections of farmers and ranchers to slow the process down and thoroughly examine its ramifications before it is enacted.

McCarthy has shown no signs of heeding those calls and, if anything, has dug her heels in more defiantly to get the rule enacted quickly. In comments before farm broadcasters Tuesday in Washington, D.C., McCarthy mentioned nothing about protests from lawmakers that her agency does not have the power to enact such broad rules. In her talk McCarthy asserted she does have the power and will enact such regulations. (Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays has more commentary on this issue as well as audio from McCarthy's talk. Click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)

McCarthy said her agency is working hard to get this rule done and that there would be no harm to farmers and ranch as long as they follow the conservation practices that the USDA and EPA agree on.

The tenor of her comments indicated she will stop at nothing to get these regulations in place as quickly as possible, turning a deaf ear to requests that her agency slow down and reflect upon the impact of the rule. Her comments also reinforced the uneasiness of the rule's opponents who say that the EPA is attempting set itself beyond the reach of the clear statutory language enacted by Congress and interpreted by the courts.

Here are a few of McCarthy's comments to the farm broadcasters:

"We spent years developing a science document which told us what we should be regulating, what clearly were significantly impacting or had the ability to impact the integrity of navigable waters. And those waters should be within the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act."

"We also know there are a number of waters which aren't, where the science isn't that clear and we have to look at it on a case-by-case basis.

"So, take a look at what we did here. We clearly maintained exemptions. We tried to be clear about what is exempt from the Clean Water Act. We tried to use the science to define what clearly should be getting 404 permit because if you have an impact on that water you will have the potential to significantly impact water quality of streams that feed our natural resources as well as feed our drinking water supplies."

"The one thing I know from regulating for 35 years is that industry and businesses respond better when they know with certainty what's in and what's out and what's expected of them. That's what this is all about."

"It's not about changing the rules, it's about providing the clarity that everybody has been screaming about. The challenge is to make sure that people aren't afraid that clarity is going to impose more burdens for our farmers and ranchers."

In her presentation, McCarthy also took aim at the campaign mounted by the American Farm Bureau Federation to "Ditch the Rule." She said all ditches are not created equal and that farmers and ranchers will simply have to trust that the rule's final form will make that more clear.


Ron Hays examines comments made by EPA's Gina McCarthy on the Waters of the U.S. Rule.
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