NMPF Asks EPA to Defer WOTUS Rewrite
March 3, 2022
NMPF filed comments on the proposed definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act on Feb. 7, urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend its rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) until the Supreme Court has a chance to consider a critical case under the Clean Water Act and to reconsider its stance on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. NMPF also encouraged EPA to incorporate the recommendations put forth by the EPA Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee which included ensuring EPA compliance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent limiting federal jurisdiction over bodies of water, developing a clear definition of WOTUS that is easily interpreted by farmers and ranchers, and protecting WOTUS exemptions for common agricultural features.
Along from submitting comments – the fifth set of comments on WOTUS NMPF has offered in the past decade – NMPF signed on to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s comments with several other agriculture organizations. It also released a member alert on the issue and highlighted agriculture’s strong concern for farmers having a critical voice in determining definitions.
The proposed rule “exercises the agencies’ discretionary authority to interpret ’Waters of the United States’ to mean the waters defined by the longstanding 1986 regulations, with amendments to certain parts of those rules to reflect the agencies’ interpretation of the statutory limits on the scope of the ‘waters of the United States’ and informed by Supreme Court case law.” The agencies believe a return to the pre-2015 definition will provide a known and familiar framework for co-regulators and stakeholders. The proposed rule comes after the Navigable Waters Protection Rule was ordered and vacated in the case of Pascua Tribe v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August 2021.
NMPF has been active in developing several WOTUS rules, meeting with EPA on numerous occasions to emphasize the need for certainty and clarity in water regulations for dairy farmers through a lasting rule that complies with the law.