Regulation replacements: NCBA provides updates on WOTUS and NEPA changes
The Biden administration continues working to repeal and replace Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, concerning producers across the nation.
The Beltway Beef podcast welcomed National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Natural Resources and Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover on April 22 to update producers on how NCBA is working to ensure producers receive clear and consistent regulations from policymakers.
NCBA, together with a number of state affiliates and other national partners, filed an amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case titled Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), says Glover.
This case challenges the authority of the EPA under the Clean Water Act and will help determine the future definition of WOTUS.
“This amicus brief is essentially telling the Supreme Court the test used in determining whether a water is jurisdictional for federal regulation needs to be clear and limited,” Glover says. “This is the message we carry forward through our regulatory comments, and now we have the opportunity to share this with the Supreme Court as well and have them consider what the clear definition looks like.”
She mentions producers feel constant “whiplash” after going back and forth with administrations on regulation changes year after year.
Glover notes, “Over the last 50 years, cattle producers and other resource managers have had to deal with 13 different iterations of what is considered WOTUS.”
She says filing this amicus brief gives NCBA the opportunity to elevate the conversation of defining WOTUS.
“I take this as some good news, but we still have a bit of road ahead before the issue is fully resolved,” Glover notes.
Glover acknowledges producers’ concern with the Biden administration’s possible NEPA regulation updates.
“For a lot of our cattle producers and land managers, the constant refrain is the government just needs to let us do the good work we are doing,” she says. “Federal regulations need to be flexible enough to allow the good work cattle producers do to proceed.”
Glover states NEPA has been noticeably inefficient and unadaptable for many years now.
“Regulations need to be able to change and adapt with the current need,” Glover adds.
In 2020, the Trump administration acknowledged NEPA must be more efficient and be returned to the original concept – NEPA is a process to evaluate, not a tool for perception of judging whether a project is good or bad, Glover says.
“This government-wide guidance was finalized in 2020, and we knew pretty early in this administration it would be on the chopping block,” she adds.
The Biden administration finalized the first of a two-stage rulemaking process to push back the 2020 guidance and return to the pre-2020 standard, making the considerations of impacts broader, says Glover.
“Pre-2020 NEPA was inefficient,” says Glover. “It took too long, the analysis was too complicated, the scope was far too broad, it failed to consider important factors like local expertise, local input, socio-economic and economic data. This phase two is where the rubber is going to meet the road in terms of what it means for cattle producers.”
“This first stage, this receding to a position we know is ineffective, is really disappointing,” Glover continues.
“While we had some good news, we are disappointed with the steps this administration is taking in NEPA, and the fight is ahead of us,” says Glover. “The 2020 guidance was litigated, everything went to the courts, and we expect any future guidance to also go to the courts.”
“Here at NCBA and PLC, our priorities remain the same,” she continues. “Use the simplest analysis which is appropriate for the project and make sure the expectations are clear and timely.”
She notes NCBA is pushing for clarity, consistency, predictability and durability in NEPA regulations.
“NEPA should never be a tool to stop progress,” Glover says. “It has to be a process to evaluate likely outcomes.”
She mentions NCBA will continue working to ensure policymakers keep Western producers in mind for years to come.
“This is one of these things producers will keep hearing about,” Glover says. “This is going to be a long, multi-year process.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.