By Mike Barnett
Environmental Protection Agency. EPA. I think a name change is due. Extremely Pugnacious Agency.
EPA recently released its final “Waters of the U.S.” rule. After months of debate, thousands of comments from farmers and ranchers—including 1,200 from Texas—and clear direction from both Congress and the courts, EPA did what it wanted to do. The final rule, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation analysis, will give EPA new powers to regulate farmers, ranchers and other businesses.
How did we get here?
EPA abused the rulemaking process. They took to social media channels, conducting an aggressive advocacy campaign to obscure impacts on agriculture and other businesses. They publicly smeared groups like Farm Bureau, who tried to explain those impacts to the public.
Outrageous. Are federal agencies supposed to act like this? Shouldn’t agencies take an honest look at legitimate thoughts and concerns of a regulated public? That’s what the notice and comment procedures are designed to ensure. Looks to me like EPA preferred the command and control model, labeling farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns as “silly,” “ludicrous” and “myths.”
EPA never wavered from where they thought the rule should go. A clear vision of extending regulations. Ignoring onerous impacts on agriculture. Running over the law. Like a bully. A big, pugnacious bully.
So where do we go from here?
There is hope in the U.S. House and Senate. The House has passed legislation telling EPA to start over. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently did the same. We have high hopes the full Senate will pass that legislation.
The bill—the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, S 1140—would force EPA to drop its interpretation of the Clean Water Act. Start over. Craft a new rule that would meet congressional intent. And take into account the valid concerns of farmers, ranchers and others affected by the new rule.
That’s what agriculture has been asking for all along. Stay tuned.