WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2015 - On Friday, one of the Obama administration’s most unpopular regulations could become law, much to the chagrin of many in the agricultural community.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule – also known as Waters of the United States, or WOTUS – will take effect Friday, barring an injunction from one of the lawsuits currently seeking to halt the rule. The lawsuits include challenges from more than two dozen states and 12 organizations in five separate cases filed across the country.

Sources close to one of the lawsuits told Agri-Pulse that EPA has requested a consolidation of all the lawsuits filed in District Courts into one case to be heard by the District Court in Washington, D.C., something opposed by both states and industry groups. At the appellate level, the cases have all been consolidated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

In the meantime, Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said AFBF, a very loud voice in the fight against WOTUS, now needs to help its members understand and follow the law.

When it’s the law of the land, “you have to comply,” Parrish said in an interview with Agri-Pulse.

Both Parrish and Scott Yeager, the environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, agreed that the EPA probably won’t immediately resort to the $37,500 fine per discharge per day authorized in the rule, but rather will gradually implement the regulations.

“This rule is just going to be coming into effect, so I don’t think you’re going to see EPA marching out there on day one and taking enforcement actions against farmers and ranchers,” Yeager told Agri-Pulse. “What’s more likely is implementation is going to ease in. I mean, they haven’t even issued guidance yet and they have yet to publish that Q & A article that kind of tells you how it’s going to work, so I think it’s a bit premature for people to change everything they’re doing.”

Parrish said the rule will be more of “a creep” than a sudden onslaught of new regulations -- he expects the EPA to wait to fully implement the rule until the subject is off Congress’ radar. But given the likelihood that a court case could drag on for several years, Parrish said AFBF is still hoping for congressional action defanging the rule in the short term, be it through an appropriations rider or a clean repeal bill.

“(EPA) not only screwed up the process,” Parrish said,” but they proposed a rule that’s unworkable, and we want Congress to step in.”


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