Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ranchers' groups blast new EPA water rule

Two prominent ranchers' groups are roundly criticizing the finalized Clean Water Rule unveiled today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council:
“Nothing left unregulated” is the apparent motto of the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, the Agency finalized its “Waters of the United States” proposed rule, which unilaterally strips private property rights and adds hundreds of thousands of stream miles and acres of land to federal jurisdiction.

Under the guise of clarifying the Clean Water Act, the EPA and the Army Corps added ambiguous language to the law that leaves regulation up to the subjectivity of individual regulators across the country. By law, the EPA must read and consider all comments submitted on the proposed rule, but only six months after receiving over one million public comments on the proposal, EPA has finalized the rule. Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president, said this is a clear indication there is no intention of considering the concerns of those most impacted by the rule.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, that a flawed rule would come from a flawed process. Not only did the EPA write the proposal expanding the reach of the Clean Water Act without input from agriculture, the Agency implemented their own grassroots lobbying campaign to drown out the concerns of private property owners. The tax-payer funded campaign was promoted through social media channels and called for people to share EPA’s oversimplified and misleading talking points.

“The former Obama campaign officials that received political appointments at EPA are apparently putting their activist knowledge base to use,” said Ellis. “Soliciting endorsements and support is a far cry from simply educating the public, as EPA officials claim.”

The Agency even went a step further during a press conference when Administrator McCarthy called the concerns of cattlemen “ludicrous”. This doesn’t sound like an Agency interested in rural America at all. It’s an Agency with an agenda.

In fact, the EPA used maps of waters and wetlands throughout the country that detailed the extent of their proposal, but it wasn’t until the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology was doing research in preparation for a hearing that the maps were discovered. The taxpayer funded maps, presumably kept hidden for years, painted an “astonishing picture” of what EPA intended to regulate, as Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) explained.

“The EPA has been spending taxpayer dollars employing a grassroots lobbying campaign, hiding information, dismissing concerns from stakeholders, and holding closed-door meetings with environmental activists,” said Brenda Richards, Idaho rancher and Public Lands Council president. “There is no question that this rule will infringe on private property rights and usurp state authority over land and water use. Ambiguous language included will only serve to further jam courtrooms across the country with jurisdictional challenges.”

While NCBA and PLC are reviewing the details of the final rule, the entire process has been flawed and must be set aside; the final rule poses an unnecessary threat to private property owners and cattle producers across the country. The only fix is to start over with all stakeholders’ input and direction from Congress.
Watch for our continuing coverage of this issue at CapitalPress.com.

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