Indiana Senator Tells EPA: Ditch the Rule

 Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly

The latest chapter in the saga of the Waters of the US rule unfolded in Washington yesterday. Despite strong opposition by farm groups and members of Congress to the proposed EPA WOTUS rule, the agency has been moving ahead with implementation of the regulation that would give EPA control over almost all water in the US, including ponds and ditches. So, in response, a bipartisan group of Senators has introduced a bill that would require the EPA to “Ditch the Rule.” One of the co-authors of the bill is Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly who told HAT that this legislation is designed to get the attention of the agency, “It is directed right at them and will stop them in their tracks. “

Donnelly said The Federal Water Quality Protection Act requires the EPA to stop implementation of its rule, to go back to the beginning, and to work with and listen to the ag community, “What they need to understand is that things work a lot better when we work together.” It also put limits on what the rule cannot regulate, “The bill states that farm ponds and ditches cannot be considered navigable water and cannot be included in the Waters of the United States rule.” The bill requires that the EPA complete its work and have a rule ready for implementation by the end of 2016.

“The bill states that farm ponds and ditches cannot be considered navigable water and cannot be included in the Waters of the United States rule.”

Donnelly said there is strong Congressional support for the measure, but so far no response from the Obama administration. He added Congress is not trying to stop the EPA from regulating waterways, but only to work with the ag community to craft rules that make sense, ”It is just common sense. We know what a navigable waterway is, and we know what a farm pond or roadside ditch is. I have repeatedly told the folks at the EPA: if you spend all your time dictating to us, you are not going to get anywhere.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts was joined at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday by a bipartisan group of Senators who support the bill. “I’m proud to lead agriculture’s charge in pushing back against EPA’s egregious federal overreach. Complying with the ‘Waters of the US’ rule is consistently the number one concern I hear from farmers and ranchers across the country,” said Roberts. “The last thing rural America needs to worry about is more burdensome and costly federal oversight down on the farm. Our farmers’ and ranchers’ job is to take care of the land and natural resources. The federal government doesn’t have to tell them to do that.”

Over 90 farm organizations support the effort. NCBA President Philip Ellis said Congressional action is imperative to stopping the rule from moving forward. “EPA Administrator McCarthy has already sent her final rule to Office of Management and Budget,” said Ellis. “Finalizing the rule only six months after receiving over one million comments sends a clear message that EPA has no intention of listening to the broad array of stakeholders and is pushing forward with a problematic rule.”

Farm Bureau is urging Congress to act swiftly, before the rule is final, so agencies can re-craft the rule to ensure it is practical and addresses the concerns of farmers, ranchers and business owners across the country. “Tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and land owners have spoken out, but EPA has yet to fully acknowledge the proposal’s potential impact on everyday farming activities,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We work hard every day to minimize the environmental impact of raising the food, fuel and fiber we all consume. We’re grateful that our Congressional representatives are paving the way to safeguard both farmers and their land.”


Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly talks with Hoosier Ag Today