Oklahoma Farm Bureau Speaks Out on 'Waters of US' RuleThu, 10 Jul 2014 03:17:37 CDT
Oklahoma Farm Bureau was one of several groups that offered comments to EPA Region Six officials in a special meeting held in Oklahoma City, as Oklahoma agriculture lined up against the EPA plan to regulate most farming activities on lands that may impact streams and bodies of water in the United States. OFB President Tom Buchanan was among a group of ag leaders to meet with EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry and Water Quality Division Director Bill Honker earlier this week in a meeting organized by Michael Teague, the state secretary of energy environment. Buchanan expressed his concerns over the proposed 'Water of the US' (WOTUS) interpretative rule as well as the 'Waters of the US' proposal itself.
Buchanan said the two sections of Clean Water Act law have particular impacts on agriculture. Section 404 allows the Corps to issue permits for discharges of “dredge and fill material into navigable waters. This section deals with any discharge that would result from moving the soil. Section 402 establishes the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program in which EPA or states (with EPA oversight) can issue permits for discharges of other pollutants into navigable waters.
Buchanan said the proposed rule would give EPA the authority to micromanage or even prohibit a farmer or rancher’s practices that are critical to the ability to operate—even if those practices have little or no actual effect on water quality.
In the proposed rule, EPA proposes to regulate “tributaries”. EPA proposed to define a tributary as any feature with a bed and bank and ordinary high water mark, which EPA and the Corps view as any trench or discrete path of water with physical indications of water flow, that contributes flow to traditional navigable waters in any amount, whether directly or through other waterbodies, which could be ditches, other tributaries or impoundments.
OKFB has also filed official comments on the Interpretive Rule, or IR, between the Department of the Army and EPA, and the agencies’ Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA. OKFB believes the IR is regulatory overreach by the executive branch and that the IR is in fact a new law which has not been through the public participation process.
OKFB urged the agencies involved to withdraw the IR and the MOU. It is vital for agriculture that the proposed WOTUS rule does not become final, or if that is not possible, that the agencies change the rule substantially so that farmers and ranchers do not have to jump through the hoops of Clean Water Act permitting just to carry out routine farm or ranch activities. OKFB urges the agencies involved to withdraw the proposed WOTUS rule and work together with the agricultural community on a revised proposal which does not go beyond the extent of current law.
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