April 12, 2023
President Biden's decision to veto the Trump administration's revisions to the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule has re-ignited a heated debate between supporters and opponents of this action.
The WOTUS rule is a federal regulation that aims to protect the country's waterways by defining which bodies of water fall under federal jurisdiction. While many environmental and conservation groups have expressed support for the WOTUS rule, agricultural and business interests have opposed it, arguing that it places unnecessary regulatory burdens on industries.
The original WOTUS rule, which was created under the Obama administration in 2015, broadly defined "waters of the United States" to include not only navigable rivers and lakes, but also many smaller bodies of water and wetlands that feed into them. This broad interpretation of federal authority was met with strong opposition from industry groups, who argued that it would lead to greater regulatory oversight of their activities on private property. To address these concerns, the Trump administration revised the WOTUS rule in 2020, narrowing the definition of "waters of the United States" to exclude many smaller streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water. However, President Biden's decision to veto the Trump administration's revisions to the WOTUS rule has been welcomed by environmental and conservation groups, who argue that these changes would have weakened protections for the nation's waterways. Supporters of the original WOTUS rule argue that a broad interpretation of federal authority is necessary to adequately protect the quality of our nation's drinking water sources, as well as the habitats and ecosystems that depend on those water sources.
Opponents of the WOTUS rule, on the other hand, argue that it is overly restrictive and burdensome for industries such as agriculture and manufacturing. They contend that the WOTUS rule would make it more difficult for them to operate and expand their operations, as it would require greater regulatory oversight of their use of water resources. While the debate over the WOTUS rule is complex, it is clear that the issue of how best to balance regulatory protections for the environment with the interests of industry and business will continue to be a point of contention.
Earlier this year on North American Ag Spotlight, American Farm Bureau Federation's Senior Director of Government Affairs, Courtney Briggs stated that, "the Trump administration drew a bright line to protect farmers property rights, but now the Biden Administration has repealed the NWPR and put forward their troubling version of the rule."
Last year American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall stated “Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources we’re entrusted with. Clean water is important to all of us. Unfortunately, the new WOTUS rule once again gives the federal government sweeping authority over private lands. This isn’t what clean water regulations were intended to do. Farmers and ranchers should not have to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to determine how we can farm our land.
“The new rule is vague and creates uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water. We believe a judge will recognize these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act, and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue stocking America’s pantries.”
The latest news of last week's veto by the President has ag industry members concerned over the property rights of farmers. In the meantime, supporters and opponents of the WOTUS rule will continue to voice their arguments and concerns, and the debate will no doubt continue.
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