(The Center Square) – Missouri’s Republican congressional delegation sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting an immediate stop to a new Waters of the United States rule.
The letter was signed by Sens. Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt and Reps. Ann Wagner, Eric Burlison, Sam Graves, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Jason Smith and Mark Alford.
The legislators write the new rule “will prove ruinous to farmers in the State of Missouri. In this new regulation, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purport to regulate every puddle and drainage ditch across America.”
On Dec. 30, 2022, the federal agencies announced the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’” rule. It takes effect March 20.
According to the EPA website, “The agencies’ final rule establishes a clear and reasonable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ and reduces the uncertainty from constantly changing regulatory definitions that has harmed communities and our nation’s waters.”
The EPA says certain bodies of waters will be regulated if they’re determined to be relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing. Plus, bodies of water, tributaries and wetlands will be regulated based on connection to, and effect on, larger downstream waters.
According to an EPA media release, the final rule is grounded in the Clean Water Act and uses the best available science and “extensive implementation experience stewarding the nation’s waters.”
“Following extensive stakeholder engagement, and building on what we’ve learned from previous rules, EPA is working to deliver a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing greater certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
Missouri’s legislators said President Joe Biden’s appointees are falsely claiming the rule will support agriculture.
“Farmers in our state have consistently cried foul at Democrats’ attempts to federalize their farmland,” the letter sent Thursday states. “This new rule is little more than a redux of the Obama-era WOTUS rule that farmers detested – and which the Trump administration rescinded under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Rather than support farmers and American businesses, this administration has caved to woke environmental activists that want to transform American agriculture.”
A fact sheet published in December by the agencies said the pre-2015 definition was used because “it supported decades of clean water progress and has been implemented by every administration in the last 45 years.”
Definitions changed due to court decisions and regulations in 2015, 2019 and 2020, causing “uncertainty that harmed communities and our nation’s waters,” according to the document. “The rule restores fundamental protections so that the nation will be closer to achieving Congress’ direction in the Clean Water Act that our waters be fishable and swimmable. It will also ensure that our waters support recreation and wildlife.”
Missouri’s lawmakers requested the EPA provide evidence to justify why “ephemeral streams” will be regulated and to identify which Missouri waters would not be regulated. They also asked why the rule was announced prior to an expected ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on a WOTUS case.
“Farmers and ranchers in Missouri should be able to determine how to best manage their land and water, not the EPA,” the legislators wrote. “This rule is just another federal power grab that infringes on the property rights of farmers in our state. We demand that you rescind this rule immediately.”