WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2016) – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released their report highlighting examples of EPA illegally asserting jurisdiction over features traditionally exempt from the Clean Water Act. Despite the fact that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals continues their nationwide stay on enforcement of EPA’s “waters of the United States” final rule, the report demonstrates that EPA is in fact, enforcing the WOTUS rule and expanding jurisdiction beyond congressional intent. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner said this report is conclusive evidence of EPA’s continued efforts to expand their jurisdiction over all waters.
“While the Courts have temporarily suspended enforcement and implementation of the rule, the EPA continues to exercise federal control over private land in a way that erodes the agricultural exemptions in the Clean Water Act,” said Brunner. “This report clearly shows that EPA continues to regulate private property, including ditches and furrows, without any statutory or legal justification.”
For cattle producers, the report highlights two cases where EPA took enforcement action against normal farming and ranching activities which are exempt from the Clean Water Act. In one instance, EPA intervened when a California rancher plowed crop land that was previously used for cattle grazing. In that matter, EPA noted that by plowing, the rancher created furrow tops that served as ‘uplands’ and ‘served as small mountain ranges’ which disqualified the plowing from the agricultural exemption. In the second instance, a rancher who created a stock pond was informed the pond was too ‘aesthetic’ and therefore fell outside the stock pond exemption.
“While EPA has consistently claimed that the WOTUS rule preserves the exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities, their regulatory track record proves the exact opposite,” said Brunner. “The broad and undefined terms of the WOTUS rule have created regulatory uncertainty for producers and given EPA complete subjective control in defining their jurisdiction over every drop of water in the United States.”
Prior to a Senate vote on legislation to fix the WOTUS Rule, 11 Senators sent a letter to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers asserting that they reserve the right to support efforts to revise the rule, should EPA enforcement erode traditional exemptions. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report clearly highlights examples of the agencies doing just that. NCBA calls on these 11 Senators to work together with the Committee to forge a compromise that will bring regulatory certainty to cattle producers and preserve the agricultural exemptions of the Clean Water Act.