Responding to pressure from farm groups and others, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today extended the public comment period for the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule from July 21 until Oct. 20, an additional 91 days.
“This extension is in response to numerous requests received by the agencies,” EPA said in an email.
“The agencies are continuing to meet with representatives of states and local governments, stakeholders, and elected officials during the comment period,” the EPA said. “The Waters of the U.S. proposed rule will clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation's water resources.”
The agencies have also extended the public comment period on the interpretive rule by 30 days to July 7. The interpretive rule ensures that 56 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality and are conducted in conformance with NRCS practice standards will not be subject to Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting requirements for discharges of dredged or fill material.
EPA maintains that the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule “will clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources,” but some farm leaders and members of Congress have declared it an unprecedented power grab.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman today called the extension “a victory for farming families and a clear signal that America’s farmers know how to stand up and be counted.”
“EPA has misled the regulated community about the rule’s impacts on land use,” Stallman said. “If more people knew how regulators want to require permits for common activities on dry land, or penalize landowners for not getting them, they would be outraged.”
“This latest rule broadly expands federal jurisdiction and threatens local land-use and zoning authority,” he said. “Simply put, it is an end-run around Congress and the Supreme Court. I look forward to expanding on our position in testimony tomorrow before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment.”
“The new schedule gives us until October 20 to comment on the Waters of the United States rule, and until July 7 to comment on the accompanying interpretive rule. Rest assured we will use that time to its best advantage. We will ditch this rule.”
The National Milk Producers Federation also praised the extension, noting it said in a letter to the two agencies that more time was needed because “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.”