Clean Water Act Proposal
Created by rrummel on 3/26/2014 3:50:57 PM

Expands Ag Exemptions


The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule toclarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands Tuesday.The EPA and Army Corps say the proposed rule will benefit businesses byincreasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act. Theagencies are launching a robust outreach effort over the next 90 days - holdingdiscussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a finalrule. According to an EPA press release - the proposed definitions of waterswill apply to all Clean Water Act programs. The EPA says the proposed rule doesnot protect any new types of waters that have not historically been coveredunder the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s morenarrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The proposed rule preserves theClean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. EPA and the ArmyCorps have coordinated with USDA to develop an interpretive rule to ensure that53 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality willnot be subject to Section 404 dredged or fill permitting requirements. Theagencies will work together to implement these new exemptions and periodicallyreview and update USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation practicestandards and activities that would qualify under the exemption. Anyagriculture activity that does not result in the discharge of a pollutant towaters of the U.S. still does not require a permit.

 

EPA AdministratorGina McCarthy says they are clarifying protection for the upstream waters thatare absolutely vital to downstream communities. Jo-Ellen Darcy - AssistantSecretary of the Army - says the rulemaking will strengthen the consistency,predictability and transparency of their jurisdictional determinations.Specifically - the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act -most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected; wetlands near riversand streams are protected; other types of waters may have more uncertainconnections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through acase specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant. Theproposal requests comment on options protecting similarly situated waters incertain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protectedwithout case specific analysis.

The proposed rulewill be open for public comments for 90 days from publication in the FederalRegister. The interpretive rule for agricultural activities is effectiveimmediately. Visit www dot epa dot gov slash uswaters (www.epa.gov/uswaters) for moreinformation.

National Farmers Union has longadvocated for increased certainty surrounding Clean Water Act requirements forfamily farmers and ranchers in the wake of complicating Supreme Courtdecisions. NFU Senior Vice President of Programs Chandler Goule says the draftrule released Tuesday clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction, maintainsexisting agricultural exemptions, adds new exemptions and encourages enrollmentin USDA conservation programs. He also notes that farmers and ranchersvoluntarily enacting certain conservation practices on their farms will beexempt from CWA Section 404 permitting requirements. Goule says thisag-friendly announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency and ArmyCorps of Engineers indicates that the voices of agricultural stakeholders wereheard. He encourages EPA to continue to rebuild trust with the ag community bywithdrawing its proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard targets.