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Expansion of Federal Authority Over "Waters of the United States" Proposed
An expansion of their federal authority over "waters of the United States" is being proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corp of Engineers (Corps). Under this expansion, essentially all waters in the country would be subject to regulation by the EPA and the Corps, regardless of size or continuity of flow.
“This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for overregulation,” says NCBA President Bob McCan, Victoria, Texas cattle producer. “This proposal by EPA and the Corps would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit. This proposed regulation and the burdensome federal permitting scheme will only hinder producers’ ability to undertake necessary tasks and, in turn, result in an exodus of ranchers from the field.”
Almost all activities on open land will now touch a “water of the United States” under the expanded definition. For the first time, ditches are included in the definition of a tributary and will come under federal jurisdiction. Activities near a jurisdictional ditch will now require a federal permit. Many cattle operations will be required to get Sec. 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, Sec. 404 Dredge and Fill permits or Sec. 311 Spill Prevention Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) spill plans.
“NCBA policy states we oppose expanding federal authority over nonnavigable waters,” McCan notes. “This proposal flies in the face of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the EPA and Corps’ jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It takes the authority Congress granted EPA beyond the scope of Congressional intent. This is an illegal act by the EPA, and we will defend the rights of our members and producers.”
The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. NCBA will submit comments on behalf of the 175,000-plus producers it represents.