Baise: EPA's water police: Coming to your farm?

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I just returned from Germany and Poland and was startled to discover the regulatory control the European Union exercises over its farmers and agriculture.

Gary BaiseGary H. Baise This should not be a surprise, however, when a farmer has the EU paying one-half the cost of his tractor and/or farm equipment.

In eastern Germany, we were also regaled with stories about the old communist government ordering planting on days it was raining.

Unfortunately we are headed in the same direction here.

The EPA has just released a new definition of "Waters of the United States." Critics are calling this the biggest government land grab ever. Senator David Vitter, R-La., and a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "The…(proposed) rule may be one of the most significant private property grabs in U. S. history." Senator Murkowski, R-Alaska, claimed the EPA proposal "could result in serious collateral damage to our economy." She also said, "If EPA is not careful, this rule could effectively give the federal government control of nearly all of our state – and prove to be a showstopper for both traditional access and new development.

This quote may apply to most of the states of the Union, and not just Alaska. This EPA proposal, if promulgated, will give it zoning authority over land use. 

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, claims the new rule is giving EPA permission to regulate anything from runoff ditches to stock ponds. "This Administration has decided that Washington knows best," says Neugebauer. Another Congressman declared, "If approved, this rule would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States."

These are strong statements. I am going to examine this sweeping 370-page proposal in this and subsequent blogs.  The fears expressed by Senators and Congressmen are well founded. One article has suggested that EPA's water police are coming to your farm, business and backyard.

The EPA document has nine sections dealing with the proposed definition of "Waters of the United States." In addition, the agency provides background on its scientific review which I wrote about on January 27, 2014. EPA uses another 300-page document to discuss "Connectivity." This EPA Connectivity report was issued in September, 2013 and describes how isolated bodies of water, isolated streams and isolated wetlands relate to larger bodies of water.

The language which concerns so many groups in agriculture is that EPA believes that all bodies of water are somehow physically, chemically and biologically connected to downstream Waters of the United States.

What is "Significant Nexus?"
Two words are critical to EPA's power grab over your private property if it has water on it. The terms are "Significant Nexus". EPA says there can be a significant nexus with "other waters".  EPA declares that "other waters," which I will discuss in a subsequent blog, can have a relationship to each other and connections downstream which affect the chemical, physical or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters.  EPA says "The existence of the connection, a nexus, does not by itself establish that it is a 'significant nexus'."

EPA claims it will review water on your property or coming from your property and undertake a case-specific analysis to determine whether the gradient of your property and its water creates a relationship that "…constitutes a significant nexus."

EPA, in a chilling statement, says "Functions of waters that might demonstrate a significant nexus includes sediment trapping, nutrient recycling, pollutant trapping and filtering, retention or attenuation of flood waters, runoff storage, export of organic matter, export of food resources, and provision of aquatic habitat. A hydrologic connection is not necessary to establish a significant nexus."

EPA, with this statement, can come after virtually any water on your property.

EPA claims it is merely clarifying the definition of Waters of the United States.  As I told members of the Iowa and Missouri Farm Bureaus this past week, such an assertion is simply not believable and is nonsense. 

As one article said, the EPA water police are coming to your farm, ranch or timber operation. If this rule is promulgated, it will be unclear who has more control over its farmers…the European Union or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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Sko    
Kansas  |  April, 03, 2014 at 08:38 AM

Maybe before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, and rather than taking the word of ill-informed politicians who obviously haven't even read the rule yet, you should read it FIRST, then comment? Wouldn't that be a more prudent approach? A quick Google search turned up this document from the EPA: The proposed rule will: • Preserve current agricultural exemptions for Clean Water Act permitting, including: o Normal farming, silviculture, and ranching practices. Those activities include plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for production of food, fiber, and forest products. o Upland soil and water conservation practices. o Agricultural stormwater discharges. o Return flows from irrigated agriculture. o Construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches on dry land. o Maintenance of drainage ditches. o Construction or maintenance of farm, forest, and temporary mining roads. • Provide greater clarity and certainty to farmers. • Avoid economic burden on agriculture. • Encourage the use of voluntary conservation practices. • Be consistent with and support existing USDA programs. The proposed rule will NOT: • Cover groundwater • Cover tiles drains • Increase regulation of ditches • Protect any new types of waters • Affect areas generally previously excluded from jurisdiction, including: o Artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland if irrigation stops. o Artificial lakes or ponds created by excavating and/or diking dry land and used for purposes such purposes as rice growing, stock watering or irrigation. o Artificial ornamental waters created for primarily aesthetic reasons. o Water-filled depressions created as a result of constructio

Mark    
Iowa  |  April, 03, 2014 at 10:00 AM

They have already been looking all over our county and farm in person don't know how that has turned out as of know.

Tex    
TEXAS  |  April, 03, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Wow Sko, you drank the Kool-Aid. I don't need or want an exemption for Clean Water Act permitting on my ranch. Or ANYTHING from the Fed Gov. but a good leaving ALONE.

Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  April, 03, 2014 at 03:43 PM

You can't take the words found in an EPA press release over the text found in a federal regulation and EPA will tell you that. The Agency has a history of letting the PR group write the news articles without fully engaging the techical staff. This is partially a defense mechanism. This has been particularly true under the Obama Administration. SKO, my guess is that Gary has read the EPA proposal which is why he is sounding the alarm. He only offered the comments of various politicians to show that other people have simialr concerns. I don't understand why you would criticise Gary for including quotes from elected representatives and alledging that he hasn't read the proposed regulation only to follow up with no refutation based on what you read in the article. You also gave citations from an EPA press release. I hope that you understand that the EPA people are unelected bureacrats with their own motivations, biases and agenda. Thus their press release is no more credible (maybe even less credible) than any politician's statement on the issue. By chance SKO, are you in any way connected with EPA or an environmental group?

Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  April, 03, 2014 at 03:43 PM

You can't take the words found in an EPA press release over the text found in a federal regulation and EPA will tell you that. The Agency has a history of letting the PR group write the news articles without fully engaging the techical staff. This is partially a defense mechanism. This has been particularly true under the Obama Administration. SKO, my guess is that Gary has read the EPA proposal which is why he is sounding the alarm. He only offered the comments of various politicians to show that other people have simialr concerns. I don't understand why you would criticise Gary for including quotes from elected representatives and alledging that he hasn't read the proposed regulation only to follow up with no refutation based on what you read in the article. You also gave citations from an EPA press release. I hope that you understand that the EPA people are unelected bureacrats with their own motivations, biases and agenda. Thus their press release is no more credible (maybe even less credible) than any politician's statement on the issue. By chance SKO, are you in any way connected with EPA or an environmental group?

Michael    
Kansas  |  April, 04, 2014 at 10:27 PM

SKO (from KS?) is the ultimate Obama admin. Fan Boy & thought-free Cheerleader. Trolling seems to be his career... Possibly a paid position?

maxine    
SD  |  April, 13, 2014 at 02:36 PM

In addition to the previous excellent comments, we need to remember that these agencies can and do change their 'rules', seemingly at will. And that they have the power and purse of the Federal Government behind them, while anyone they accuse, or regulate have families and businesses to support, and often on very limited funds, leaving little for fighting battles with unfair, overzealous regulators.


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