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Rule in Effect: New water rules beneficial to producers

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers published a final rule defining the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), which may be federally regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA), under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) effective June 22. 

The NWPR, which repeals and replaces the rule published on Oct. 22, 2019 provides four categories of jurisdictional waters and clearly outlines exclusions for many water systems that traditionally were not regulated, as well as defines terms that have never been defined before. 

Overreach overturned

Parrish notes litigation thus far has been about federal overreach. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager says the NWPR, “Restricted federal jurisdiction over the CWA by virtue of pulling out unnecessary waters and pulling back the overreach and providing some additional exclusions for farmers and ranchers.” 

The NWPR is in our backyard according to Yager, except for Colorado residents where a judge stayed the rule from taking effect in the state. The 1987 WOTUS definition remains in effect in Colorado as the 2015 rule was appealed with the publication of the NWPR. 

“This is a really good development for farmers and ranchers,” says Parrish on the NWPR going into effect in the remaining 49 states. 

Clear definitions

Parrish says the new NWPR provides farmers and ranchers the clarity they need in defining navigable waters and waters under federal control. 

One of the major points of the new definition includes the exclusion of ephemeral waters under federal control, Yager notes. Ephemeral waters are water from precipitation events that do not consistently run, such as runoff from a rain or snowmelt event. 

Ephemeral features are no longer under federal control with the passage of NWPR, which was a concern of farmers and ranchers under the previous WOTUS. 

Yager declares this, “A huge win under this new rule for farmers and ranchers.” 

New rule implementation

Although the new ruling has been passed, Parrish shares that there is more work to do on behalf of agricultural producers. He also says implementation is going to be a major factor for the success of the new rule. 

“We are going to have to partner with this administration to ensure the transparency and the clarity the agencies wanted when they developed this rule is realized,” he says. 

While the NWPR is an effective law, it is currently being challenged by a multitude of environmental groups and blue states, according to Yager. 

He adds, “We are defending the Trump administration’s rule in various courts throughout the United States.”

Yager says producers should enjoy the new water rule. 

Parrish adds, “This rule is going to be protective of water quality. It’s going to be protective of the environment. But yet, provide the clarity farmers, ranchers and landowners deserve.” 

Averi Reynolds is the editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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