WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, continues to raise questions about the impact on agriculture and rural economies of the new Clean Water Act regulations proposed this spring by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Accepting an invitation issued in May by Cochran and Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy met with the senators to discuss their concerns about an assortment of environmental regulations planned by the Obama administration and their effects on agriculture production and rural economies.
Chief among the concerns raised by senators representing rural communities and agriculture is the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which could bring more waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act making them subject to EPA permitting requirements, and the agriculture interpretive rule that outlines specific practices which qualify producers for exemptions from regulation if approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture. The public comment period ends Oct. 20 on the proposed WOTUS regulations that were unveiled by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers in March, and the comment period closed on July 7 for the agriculture interpretive rule.
“The waters of the United States proposal and the agriculture interpretive rule are a source of uncertainty, anxiety and distrust for people in rural areas. This is particularly true for states like Mississippi whose economies are built on agriculture production and where landowners want the peace of mind that what they are doing is not subject to ever more regulations,” said Cochran, who has sponsored legislative measures to stop or withdraw the WOTUS proposal.“I appreciate Administrator McCarthy agreeing to hear our concerns, and I hope the concerns we shared on behalf of our constituents will prompt the EPA to engage with agriculture organizations and to abandon or at least rethink some of the regulations it wants to impose.”
The joint EPA-Army Corps regulatory proposal was intended to clarify a guidance document issued by the two agencies to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act. Since its rollout, however, concerns have grown that the WOTUS proposal would effectively expand provisions of the Clean Water Act. The new rule would greatly broaden government regulatory and permitting control to additional streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds and ditches.
In June, Cochran became an original co-sponsor of the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 (S.2496), which seeks to stop the WOTUS initiative and prohibit the EPA and Army Corps from using the proposed rule or any substantially similar rule or guidance document in any other rulemaking or regulatory decision. Earlier this month, he also cosponsored a similar amendment offered to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.