Following yesterday’s federal court injunction against a new Clean Water Act rule, the National Pork Producers Council today strongly urged the Obama administration to delay implementation of the regulation, which would adversely affect hundreds of thousands of farmers, businesspeople and landowners. The organization also again asked the administration to withdraw it and to work with the agriculture and business communities to craft a rule ensuring the cleanliness of the nation’s rivers, streams and other waterways that the public can understand and with which it can easily comply.
“NPPC applauds the District Court’s decision,” says NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “The rule that was blocked is vague and fails to let regulated parties know when their conduct violates the law."
“We all want clean water, but this regulation isn’t about clean water. This massive land grab is about federal control of private property, growing the size of government and allowing activists to extort and micromanage all kinds of farming and business activities,” Prestage says.
WOTUS expands authority
The “Waters of the United States” rule was proposed in April 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify the agencies’ authority under the CWA over various waters. Currently, that jurisdiction – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – includes “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The rule would broaden that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also would encompass lands adjacent to such waters.
Thursday the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota stopped implementation of the regulation, which was set to take effect today. “It appears likely that the EPA has violated its congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the rule,” said Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in ruling in favor of 13 states that brought suit in North Dakota against the EPA and the Corps of Engineers.
The EPA, however, has indicated it only will recognize the injunction in the states that filed suit before the North Dakota court.
The NPPC in early July joined other agricultural organizations and business groups in filing a similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, arguing that the rule finalized in May “bears no connection” to the CWA and violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution. They also alleged that in writing the rule, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s decisions on CWA jurisdiction and subverted the notice-and-comment process by failing to seek public comments on scientific reports used to write the regulation and on major revisions of the proposed rule, conducting an inadequate economic analysis and engaging in an advocacy campaign during the comment period. (Click here to read the complaint.)
“EPA and the Corps of Engineers really failed to work with the agriculture and business communities to come up with a regulation that people could comply with,” Prestage says.
The NPPC is backing bills now making their way through Congress that would require the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to withdraw the WOTUS rule and to work with affected parties, including farmers, on a new regulation.