(Posted Tue. Jul 8th, 2014)
The National Corn Growers Association raised serious concerns over the impact of the Interpretive Rule regarding the exemption from permitting under the Clean Water Act in comments submitted today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking the agency to withdraw the rule.
Citing serious concerns over the rule’s implications for farmers carrying out normal activities, NCGA asked the EPA to withdraw the Interpretive Rule and work with the agricultural community to develop an alternative approach that would allow for farmer comment and thus an opportunity to protect their interests.
In the comments, NCGA noted appreciation for the efforts of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop this rule. Notably, NCGA joined with a broad array of other groups in asking EPA to do so in order to provide greater clarity on the implications of the Clean Water Act relevant to agriculture. This request was necessary in light of on-going legal battles that led to confusion and the potential for market disruption.
NCGA also voiced strong concern over the potential legal liabilities which could arise as a result of the rule. Firmly calling for full withdraw, the comments outlined how the rule, in practice, would increase legal liability for farmers going about normal, routine farming practices.
Additionally, the comments raised concern over the ability to properly and clearly evaluate the rule’s practical implications without a clear understanding of what is considered a water under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
“Given that the lawful definition of a WOTUS is currently under development we are forced into a considerable degree of speculation as to the Rule’s practical effects in light of the current list of covered conservation practices,” NCGA stated in the comments. “For example, we believe that the details concerning normal farming activities or conservation work carried out in the context of an intermittent stream and its riparian zone will, in certain instances, be considerably different than those for when the work is carried out in an ephemeral drainage feature in an upland area in a farm field. We are concerned that the proposed WOTUS rule, as it is currently drafted, encompasses both of these features as WOTUS. We and many others will object as a matter of law and policy to such a definition in comments submitted on the proposed WOTUS rule.”
In the comments, NCGA strongly urged the agencies hold off on any further action on this policy through notice and comment rulemaking pending the completion of the WOTUS rulemaking effort.