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2014-08-14

Time to submit comments on EPA water rule

By Richard Thorpe III

By Richard Thorpe III
TSCRA First Vice President

In 1972, Congress established the Clean Water Act (CWA) to create a basic structure for regulating water quality standards and discharges of pollutants into "waters of the United States." Under this act, "waters of the US" are classified as bodies of water that are "navigable." In other words, the EPA has jurisdiction over a body of water you can sail a steamboat or large ship through.
While Congress gave the EPA authority over "navigable" waterways, the EPA is again trying to abuse and expand its authority. The agency announced a new rule proposal in March that would redefine "waters of the US" to expand the water and land that falls under its jurisdiction.
This proposal amounts to the largest land grab in history. Essentially, it would give the agency control over all bodies of water. This includes ponds, streams, creeks, ditches, puddles, man-made conveyances, wet areas on pastures, etc. Basically, the federal government would control every drop of water in the country.
The EPA doesn't want to pass this rule through regular order in Congress. They have tried this twice and failed. Instead, the agency plans to bypass Congress and force us to comply through a rulemaking process.
If adopted, the new rule would not be good for the Texas cattle industry. For the first time, certain ditches would be defined as jurisdictional tributaries under Clean Water Act programs. Additionally, conservation activities not complying with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practice standards would be required to have a 404 dredge-and-fill permit.
This means you would be subject to additional permitting requirements for applying pesticides, grazing cattle, conducting construction projects and performing other routine maintenance on your land. These permits can cost around $30,000 and take up to a year to receive. Failure to obtain them would likely result in a penalty.
When the EPA drafted this flawed rule, they didn't consult with agricultural industry groups or you as producers. Instead, the agency was too concerned with finding ways to expand its jurisdiction, while, in turn, creating more burdensome regulations for the men and women who work daily to provide the food and fiber of our country.
This proposal presents significant challenges for us, but there is a way we can help stop it. I encourage you, your family, friends and neighbors to comment on the rule in the federal register before the deadline ends Monday, Oct. 20. Your participation is important as we must let the EPA know how detrimental this rule would be to our industry and livelihood.
You can submit your comments by visiting our website at TSCRA.org, and clicking on the "EPA Land Grab" button. We need to get at least 10,000 comments by this deadline, and anyone is welcome to comment. Also, let your Congressmen and Senators know they should oppose this rule.
It is crucial that we send a clear message to the EPA that we will not allow this proposal to be implemented, and its desire to expand onerous government regulations will not be tolerated. It's time to get rid of this rule. The future of our industry depends on it.