Growing up, we all needed guidance at times. Don’t run with scissors. Don’t forget your jacket. Don’t eat yellow snow. If you make that face one more time, it might get stuck like that.
But, not all guidance is helpful or benevolent. That is particularly true if the guidance is coming from a government regulatory agency. Take, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to expand its regulatory reach under the Clean Water Act to nearly every drop of water, and some dry land, too.
Through what’s officially known as a “guidance document,” EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are seeking to remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act. That action would allow them to regulate even a roadside ditch that holds water for only a few hours after a big rain. Both agencies have been upfront about their intent to use the guidance process to increase their regulation of water bodies and lands that have been under the states’ regulatory authority.
Another issue is the way the agencies are going about it. They’re using a guidance document, rather than going through a proper rule-making. Formal rule-making allows input from farmers, ranchers and other landowners – the people who would be flooded with an expensive slew of new regulations and permitting requirements should the guidance document be put in place.
Along with farmers, ranchers and other landowners, there are another 544 people EPA and the Corps are ignoring: 535 U.S. senators and representatives and nine Supreme Court justices. The lawmakers who wrote the Clean Water Act never intended for the federal government to have the kind of control it is seeking over local bodies of water. Similarly, in two rulings, the Supreme Court affirmed important limitations of the federal government’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Having to get another permit doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but at $30,000 to well over $100,000 for some permits, these requirements sometimes force growers to avoid farming otherwise productive acreage just so they don’t trigger federal permit and extremely costly mitigation requirements. In most parts of the country, it would be just about impossible to farm around every wet spot that EPA and the Corps want to regulate.
To dry up EPA’s effort, Farm Bureau launched the “Stop the Flood of Regulation” campaign. As part of the campaign, farmers and ranchers are asking their senators and representatives to support the Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act (S. 2245 and H.R. 4965), which would prevent EPA from taking action through this guidance document.
They are also sharing their stories of regulatory inundation through social media platforms. Look for the #stoptheflood hashtag on Twitter. And, a Facebook page gives farm and ranch families a platform for sharing how this guidance effort might affect them.
There is no doubt that without action a flood of federal regulations appears imminent. Many of our nation’s farms and ranches could find themselves awash in new, expensive and unwarranted regulations – even if the cause of those regulations is an inch-deep puddle after a downpour. Long after the puddle dries, the effect of the regulations could linger.
(Erin Anthony is assistant editor of FBNews, the official newspaper of the American Farm Bureau Federation.)