EPA water rules will encourage lawsuits and add bureaucratic red tape

The Augusta Free Press reports that the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water rules will encourage frivolous lawsuits and new permit requirements related to the Clean Water Act. One representative of the farm trade group testified at a US House of Representatives committee meeting that the new rule will create not only uncertainty but leave farmers and ranchers vulnerable.

“It is impossible to know how many farmers, ranchers and forest landowners will be visited by (EPA) enforcement staff or will be sued by citizen plaintiffs’ lawyers—and it is impossible to know when those inspections and lawsuits will happen,” Steen said. “But what is certain is that a vast number of common, responsible farming, ranching and forestry practices that occur today without the need for a federal permit would be highly vulnerable to Clean Water Act enforcement under this rule.”

American Farm Bureau Federation General Counsel Ellen Steen went on to point out:

“Much of the remaining benefit of those exemptions would be eliminated by an expansive interpretation of ‘waters of the United States’ to cover ditches and drainage paths that run across and nearby farm and pasture lands,” Steen testified. She explained that, because ditches and ephemeral drainages are ubiquitous on farm and ranch lands, the proposed rule would make it impossible for many farmers to apply fertilizer or crop protection products to their fields without triggering Clean Water Act “pollutant” discharge liability and permit requirements.

The new water rule is a proposal by the EPA to define the agency’s jurisdiction over water pollution control. The agency recently sent the final version of the rule to the White House in which it is being cast by its opponents as a massive land grab. The Farm Bureau points out the new permit requirements and exposure to lawsuits farmers could suffer should this rule be enacted. This is nothing more than a means to expand the EPA’s power so it can literally zone out liberty and property rights.