WASHINGTON, June 10, 2014 – The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers have extended the
public comment period for a proposed rule that defines the Waters of the U.S. that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
The extension was in response to a number of
requests received by the agencies involved with the rule, EPA said. Originally
slated to end July 21, the extension gives the public an additional 91 days –
or until Oct. 20 – to submit comments.
According to the EPA, the rule is designed to clarify
protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands. Many in the agricultural
community see the proposal as over-reaching, including House Agriculture
Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who called it “…the most amazing
potential power grab at least in my lifetime. “
“If EPA succeeds in doing by rule what Congress will
never give them authority to do by law, basically they’ll control every drop of
water from the ocean all the way back to the parking lot in front of your
business, the rain coming off of your barn, the drip coming off the brim of
your hat,” Lucas told Agri-Pulse in the May 12 edition of Open Mic.
The EPA proposal also includes an interpretive rule
that the agency says ensures that 56 specific conservation practices that
protect or improve water quality and are conducted in conformance with the
standards of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will not be subject
to Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting requirements for discharges of
dredged or fill material. The comment period on the interpretive rule has also
been extended by 30 days, until July 7.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman called the EPA action a "victory for farming families" and promised to use the extra time for comment wisely. "We will ditch this rule," he said in a release, echoing the title of the campaign the organization has mounted against the government proposal.
"EPA has misled the regulated community about the rule’s impacts on land use," Stallman said. "If more people knew how regulators want to require permits for common activities on dry land, or penalize landowners for not getting them, they would be outraged."
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