The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will extend the comment period for a regulatory proposal to expand the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The 90-day comment period, which was set to end on July 21, was extended to Oct. 20, following an outcry by a number of groups that the complexity of the rule necessitated a lengthier comment period.
The rule, as it is now proposed, would vastly expand the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by amending the definition of “waters of the U.S.” to include a greater number of the nation’s streams and wetlands under federal jurisdiction.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) praised EPA for agreeing to allow more time to examine the controversial draft regulation.
“Dairy farmers are committed to protecting U.S. waters both voluntarily and under the Clean Water Act,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern, “but the EPA needs to go about this effort in the right way. Allowing more time to consider EPA’s draft will give everyone the chance to adequately consider the issues raised in the draft and make it less likely the final regulation will be harmful to dairy farmers.”
NMPF represents dairy farmers producing most of the nation’s milk supply. In a May 30 letter, NMPF asked that the public comment period on EPA’s draft regulation be extended at least 90 days.
NMPF cited two reasons for requesting more time to consider the regulation: First, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have not completed the report providing the scientific underpinning for the regulation; and second, many of the key concepts discussed in the draft are unclear or subject to interpretation by government regulators.
“For dairy farmers to understand and assess the proposed changes, the science behind them must be clear and conclusive,” Mulhern said. “And yet, the draft relies on the scientific conclusions of an EPA report still under review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board.” Likewise, Mulhern said, many of the terms used in the draft, including terms like ‘‘floodplain’’ and ‘‘tributary,’’ and not well defined. “These terms are as murky at best, and, therefore, will create confusion for dairy producers.
“Given the scope and complexities of the proposed rule and its supporting documents, it was essential that EPA allow more time to consider the issues it raises,” Mulhern said. “NMPF appreciates that the agency has allowed the time needed to clarify these issues.”