Agricultural Coalition Makes Last Ditch Effort to Stop EPA and Army Corps Over 'WOTUS'Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:26:56 CDT
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council and Public Lands Council, along with other producer and land use groups, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps over their "Waters of the United States" final rule.
"The WOTUS rule remains a top priority for our producers and for all landowners nationwide," said Philip Ellis, NCBA president and Chugwater, Wyo., cattleman. "While cattlemen have long asked for greater clarity around the Clean Water Act, this rule does the opposite, rendering jurisdictional determinations so vague and subjective that our members cannot possibly make a determination as to what basic ranching activities will subject them to criminal and civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. We remain committed to working with the administration, Congress and through the courts to stop this rule."
The complaint charges that this rule by the EPA and the Corps exercises broad control over land use, far beyond what Congress authorized in the Clean Water Act. Moreover, the ambiguity and breadth of this rule violates the U.S. Constitution.
"The final rule is vague and fails to let regulated parties know when their conduct violates the law," said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. "We're asking the court to find the rule arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law; and to find that it's unlawful because it's contrary to constitutional rights and powers, inconsistent with the agencies' statutory authority under the CWA and was promulgated without following procedures required by law. The bottom line is we want the court to set aside the rule.
"We all want clean water," Prestage said, "but this rule isn't about clean water, it's about EPA and the Corps taking over private property, growing the size of government and micromanaging hundreds of farming and business activities."
"As cattle producers and landowners, we are extremely concerned by this regulatory overreach by EPA and the Corps," said Brenda Richards, PLC president and Idaho rancher. "Litigation is a last resort to exercise our rights against regulation, but producers have determined that this is a necessary step. Several states filed similar litigation requesting injunctive and declaratory relief from this administration's regulatory rampage."
The agricultural organizations are also backing bills now making their way through Congress that would require EPA and the Corps of Engineers to withdraw the WOTUS rule and to work with affected parties, including farmers, on a new regulation. If passed, this would require EPA and the Corps to start over in the rulemaking process.
"Lawsuit or no lawsuit, we need Congress to act," AFBF President Bob Stallman said. "We need legislation that requires an honest rulemaking from EPA. EPA water regulations must protect water quality without bulldozing the rights of farmers and others whose livelihoods depend on their ability to work the land."
According to the AFBF complaint, "the Agencies are determined to exert jurisdiction over a staggering range of dry land and water features whether large or small, permanent, intermittent or ephemeral, flowing or stagnant, natural or manmade, interstate or intrastate." The "opaque and unwieldy" rule "leaves the identification of jurisdictional waters so vague and uncertain that Plaintiffs and their members cannot determine whether and when the most basic activities undertaken on their land will subject them to drastic criminal and civil penalties under the (Clean Water Act)."
Similar suits have been filed by officials representing 27 states, all within two days of the rule's publication on June 29.
Plaintiffs include the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Public Lands Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute, American Road and Transportation Builders, Leading Builders of America, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Corn Growers Association, National Mining Association, and National Pork Producers Council.
A copy of the complaint can be found by clicking here.
WebReadyTM Powered by WireReady® NSI
Top Agricultural News