Critics of an Obama-era regulation that is in legal limbo say it would make small creeks on private property subject to the same environmental protection laws as major rivers. Now, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to make sure it never happens.
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced in June that they would soon attempt to rescind the Waters of the U.S. rules put in place in 2015.
“This went way too far,” said Lauren Lurkins, Director of Natural and Environmental Resources with the Illinois Farm Bureau. “Congress never intended for the federal government to have jurisdiction over all water, let alone the land that we were really talking about.”
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood’s Central Illinois district is one of the highest-producing corn and soybean regions in the country. He said farmers are the best stewards of their land, not the government.
“They don’t need EPA bureaucrats or the Army Corps of Engineers coming in and telling them how they should deal with a puddle, creek or stream on their land,” said LaHood, R-Peoria. “The fact that this was done unilaterally without the legislative process left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, called the announcement a win for farmers in his district.
“Congress never intended for EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to have jurisdiction over ditches, creeks and man-made ponds,” he said.
Environmental groups worry the rollback will pollute larger bodies of water. Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation told a Senate Committee in April that rescinding the 2015 rule would create irrevocable damage on the nation’s waterways.
The Clean Water Rule “is a product of years of transparent scientific and public deliberations, and it protects the drinking water for more than 117 million Americans,” he said.
The regulation was live for a month before it was challenged in court. The new proposal would be subject to a public comment period and then could be legally challenged – as was the case with Obama’s rule. Should it be allowed to rescind the 2015 rules, the EPA said it would begin to work on new regulations that would return power to the states and create more regulatory certainty for farmers.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Rep. LaHood’s first name.