Watching WOTUS

In the works in Washington D.C. is a rule that could dictate who regulates the standing water on your property. The Biden administration is currently rewriting this rule called WOTUS or Waters of the United States.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is monitoring the WOTUS rewrite. Courtney Briggs leads government affairs with AFBF. She says the regulation has been back and forth over the past few decades. AFBF is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to provide clarity in the rewritten rule and to respect the past ruling of the courts that the Obama-era WOTUS was an overreach of federal authority.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the agency does want to stop the ping-ponging that’s been taking place over the past 12 years. He says EPA wants to provide more certainty with the rule this administration is writing. And he says EPA is going back to the pre-2015 rule and making changes to satisfy the Supreme Court rulings that the Obama-era WOTUS was an overreach.

Briggs explains the reason the definition of WOTUS has been ping-ponging between administrations is because Congress was vague in its definition of the rule when implemented.

EPA is hosting regional roundtables primarily in the month of June, to which Regan says includes agriculture. But Briggs says there’s been a transparency issue and some industries have been left out. Regan says these roundtables are akin to public comment periods, and will influence the WOTUS rewrite. And Briggs says this underlines the importance for farmers and ranchers to make their voices heard.

She emphasizes that the stakes are high for the regulatory community, because there are civil and criminal liabilities attached to clean water compliance.