By Gene Hall
Some agencies of the federal government have learned that a “carrot and stick” approach often works. Proposed changes in the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amount to “stick and bigger stick.”
Sometimes you see the “carrot” in enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. Things like Safe Harbor and habitat mitigation mean having a species does not force landowners out of business. Then, other things become possible.
The EPA will move forward with a vast expansion of the agency’s regulatory power with changes in the Clean Water Act. Perhaps as an olive branch, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced the withdrawal of their waters of the U.S. “interpretive rule.”
That rule would have required federal permits for normal farming activities in and around newly defined “waters,” unless strictly following USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service practices. Well, okay, thanks. You won’t hit me with the stick, but the bigger stick is still in the other hand.
EPA however, only withdrew the interpretive rule. They are still pursuing the invasive “Waters of the U.S.” rule. It greatly expands federal jurisdiction to include very small water bodies, flood plains and land that is not even wet most of the time. These newly classified “waters” are not currently subject to federal regulation and they don’t need to be. Huge punitive fines are in the arsenal of aggressive regulators. Farmers and ranchers nationwide, including members of Texas Farm Bureau, have voiced opposition. Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening called it a “breathtaking overreach of federal authority.”
Perhaps that’s why Congress and the courts have stopped EPA on previous attempts to implement this outrageous new rule. This is a reckless abuse of federal power. Stay out of dry ditches and low spots in the farmer’s field. EPA, stop hitting agriculture with big sticks. Ditch the rule!