Farm groups ready to oppose EPA's water definitions

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



By Daniel Enoch and Sarah Gonzalez

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013-Agriculture groups involved in the Waters Advocacy Coalition (WAC) will meet with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Monday to make their arguments against EPA's proposed rule defining “waters of the United States.”

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David Sunding, a University of California, Berkeley, economist and a WAC consultant, told reporters today that the EPA is underestimating the acreage that would come under its jurisdiction as well as the costs to developers and agricultural interests, while overstating benefits.

WAC includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and Agricultural Retailers Association, along with several other agricultural organizations as well as manufacturing and mining industry representatives. Coalition members are regulated by and participate in the CWA section 404 wetlands permit program. Section 404 regulates discharge into waters of the United States.

After years of confusion over what qualifies a body of water for federal protection under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it sent a draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” and its jurisdiction over them.

The draft rule is based on a report EPA released in September on connected waters. The report, “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters,” describes factors that influence water connectivity and how connected waters affect downstream waters.

WAC commissioned Sunding to review EPA's economic analysis of the proposed definition. In today's briefing, he said the agency analysis was “extremely simplistic” and filled with assumptions. 

He said the EPA's estimate that the revised definition would mean an additional 1,200 acres coming under its jurisdiction per year was “implausibly low,” because the agency used a limited sampling database.

“The absolute bottom line - this is not a document anyone should be relying on when it comes to rulemaking,” Sunding said.

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