Ag lobby: Final EPA water rule is worse than proposal

Ag lobby: Final EPA water rule is worse than proposal
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The largest lobby group for farmers and ranchers declared Thursday that the Obama administration’s new rule asserting power over small waterways is worse than what had been proposed.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the most vocal opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation, wrapped up a detailed two-week review of the rule and concluded that the agency did not properly respond to criticisms from farmers.

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“Our public affairs specialists and legal team have assembled the best analysis available anywhere, and their conclusions are sobering: Despite months of comments and innumerable complaints, the waters of the U.S. proposal is even worse than before,” Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said in a statement.

“Our analysis shows yet again how unwise, extreme and unlawful this rule is,” Stallman said.

The Obama administration said it wrote the rule to ensure that small streams, ponds, wetlands and other important waterways can be regulated under the Clean Water Act, which requires permits for actions the harm or pollute water.

It has long concerned the Farm Bureau, which fears that farmers would be subject to permitting requirements and restrictions for common agricultural practices on their land like filling ditches and spraying fertilizer.

The Farm Bureau said the EPA made its rule even more broad than what it put out for public comment in March 2014, echoing a criticism that congressional Republicans have made since the May 27 announcement of the final rule.

Specifically, the Farm Bureau said that the EPA’s definition of a tributary was broadened, and it now requires only “physical indicators of a bed and banks and ordinary high water mark.”

This means that ditches, wet land near streams, isolated water and other areas are subject to the rule, the Farm Bureau argued.

Obama administration officials sought to highlight with the rollout everything that is not regulated under the rule. They argued that opponents had no reason to fear the rule unless they intend to pollute.

“It does not interfere with private property rights or address land use,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security MORE said at the time. “It does not regulate any ditches unless they function as tributaries. It does not apply to groundwater or shallow subsurface water, copper tile drains or change policy on irrigation or water transfer.”

The Farm Bureau did not say whether it would sue the EPA to have the rule overturned.

The House has voted to block the rule’s implementation, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted Wednesday to block it and give instructions to re-write it.