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Farm Bureau, others go to court over new WOTUS rule

Ecology water  

The American Farm Bureau Federation and 17 other organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Environment Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers challenging the agencies’ new rule defining Waters of the United States, known as WOTUS.

The rule makes clear the agencies “are determined to exert (Clean Water Act) jurisdiction over a staggering range of dry land and water features — whether large or small; permanent, intermittent, or ephemeral; flowing or stagnant; natural or manmade; interstate or intrastate; and no matter how remote from or lacking in a physical connection to actual navigable waters,” the lawsuit states.

“Under the rule, plaintiffs’ members will constantly be at risk that any sometimes-wet feature on their property will be deemed WOTUS by the agencies using vague and unpredictable standards — making normal business activities in that area subject to criminal and civil penalties,” it states.

The plaintiffs allege the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, contravenes the plain text of the Clean Water Act and violates the U.S. Constitution.

They are asking the court to declare the rule unlawful, to vacate it and enjoin the agencies from implementing, applying or enforcing the rule.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division.

Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources entrusted to them, said Zippy Duvall, Farm Bureau president.

“Clean water is important to all of us. Unfortunately, the new WOTUS rule once again gives the federal government sweeping authority over private lands. This isn’t what clean water regulations were intended to do,” he said.

“Farmers and ranchers should not have to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to determine how we can farm our land,” he said.

The new rule is vague and creates uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water, he said.

“We believe a judge will recognize these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue stocking America’s pantries,” he said.

Farm Bureau is joined in the lawsuit by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Poultry Association, state and county Farm Bureaus and organizations representing infrastructure and housing.

The Biden administration’s WOTUS definition is an attack against farmers and ranchers, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association will be fighting back in court, said Mary-Thomas Hart, the association’s chief counsel.

“The rule removes longstanding, bipartisan exclusions for small and isolated water features on farms and ranches and adds to the regulatory burden cattle producers are facing under this administration,” she said.

NCBA maintains regulating those water features at the federal level under the Clean Water Act disrupts normal agricultural operations and interferes with cattle producers’ abilities to make improvements to their land.

“NCBA is also concerned that the EPA charges headfirst on a controversial rulemaking while this very issue is currently before the Supreme Court. We look forward to a decision in Sackett v. EPA,” Hart said.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in October and is expected to release a decision early this year.

A link to the complaint can be found at https://www.fb.org/



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