While our attention remains focused on COVID-19, the wheels in Washington, D.C. keep on spinning in other directions.
An example — the Trump administration published a final Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on April 21 that effectively rolls back Obama-era regulations and re-defines navigable waterways.
The final rule, which was written by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, narrows the scope of waters that are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.
The rule, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here, will go into effect on June 22, 2020, 60 days following its official publication in the Federal Register.
Already, beef industry groups have shared their support for this final version.
In an interview with WNAX, Scott Yager, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s environmental counsel, said, “This is a big step in the right direction from the 2015 rule. It tears back the federal overreach, provides some clarity on what is WOTUS and what is not, and it certainly provides some really clear exclusions for agriculture. So this is something that we support, and we are happy to be at this juncture now where we have a final rule in the Federal Register and hopefully have it become effective at the end of June.”
Lia Biondo, United States Cattlemen's Association director of policy outreach, said, “USCA supports the final rule, as it specifically excludes 12 categories that are not considered WOTUS, including many farm and roadside ditches, artificial lakes and ponds and waste treatment systems.”
Karen Winters, a partner at The National Law Review, explains the practical implications of the 2020 WOTUS rule and predicts lawsuits from environmental groups.
Winters writes, “The 2020 rule narrows the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, particularly with respect to adjacent wetlands and ephemeral streams, and also abandons the ‘significant nexus text’ in the 2015 rule which allowed for a broader and more ambiguous range of waters to be included within the definition. In doing so, it establishes clearer categories of waters to be regulated, along with associated definitions.
“It also codifies a number of important exemptions (ephemeral streams, ditches, prior converted cropland, artificial lakes and ponds). The practical implications of the 2020 rule remain to be seen. Many states already have programs that are more stringent than federal program requirements and more states may respond to fill perceived gaps in federal regulation (e.g. isolated wetlands and ephemeral streams). What is clear, however, is that litigation will likely follow as it has with respect to every other effort to define WOTUS for purposes of the Clean Water Act.”
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.