EPA’s 'Waters of the U.S.' proposal open for comment

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, April 21, 2014 -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today posted their proposed definition for waters of the U.S. protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA) in the Federal Register, triggering a 90 day public comment period.

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Republican lawmakers and a few Senate Democrats criticized the proposal as another example of regulatory overreach when it was unveiled last month.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman said the proposal “poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners.” In a statement, he said the exemptions for agriculture included in the proposal “do not protect farmers from federal veto power over pest and weed control, fertilizer application, and other essential farming activities.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that current exemptions for CWA permits for “normal farming, ranching and agricultural practices” are kept intact in the proposal. “If a farmer was not legally required to have a permit before, this rule does not change that status,” she said. The proposal “does not add to or expand the scope of waters protected under the CWA, McCarthy said.

According to the EPA, the proposed definition of waters of the U.S would increase predictability and consistency for CWA programs.

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