Missouri Farm Bureau And American Farm Bureau Federation Issue Map On EPA Regulations
SEDALIA, MO., August 20, 2015 – A new interactive map of Missouri released today by the Missouri Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation at the Missouri State Fair shows how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will radically expand its jurisdiction over land use if its controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule takes effect as expected August 28. That expansion comes even as major parts of the rule remain largely incomprehensible to experts and laypeople, alike.
The map, prepared by Geosyntec Consulting, shows the dramatic expansion of EPA’s regulatory reach, stretching across wide swaths of land in Missouri where 99 percent of the state’s total acreage will be subject to EPA scrutiny. Landowners have no reliable way to know what water and land within that area will be regulated, yet they must still conform their activities to the new law.
“Farmers face enforcement action and severe penalties under EPA’s new rule for using the same safe, scientifically sound and federally approved crop protection tools they’ve used for years,” AFBF economist Veronica Nigh told reporters at the Missouri Farm Bureau building on the grounds of the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. “This rule creates a new set of standards for harassing farmers in court, and does it all with language that is disturbingly vague and subject to abuse by future regulators. It’s worth saying again: The EPA needs to withdraw this rule and start over.”
Using three of the University of Missouri’s research farms as examples, Nigh introduced a series of regional maps showing increased federal regulatory control under the Clean Water Act. Similar maps have been created for states such as Montana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
The maps’ base layer shows areas regulated as tributaries and adjacent wetlands without a case-specific “significant nexus” analysis under previous rules. Through a progression, the maps add “ephemeral streams”—low spots in the land that drain and channel water away from farmland after a rain but are otherwise dry. The EPA has sometimes asserted jurisdiction over such areas before, but only after a site-specific finding of a “significant nexus” to downstream waters. Under the new rule, all such “ephemeral tributaries” are regulated.
With this added jurisdiction in place, the Clean Water Act will prohibit many common agricultural practices in or around these ephemeral features. Any unpermitted discharge—whether pesticides, fertilizer or even disturbed soil—will leave farmers vulnerable to enforcement by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, or private citizens, with severe potential penalties. This means unless farmers are able to navigate the regulatory system to secure a costly Clean Water Act permit, farming in many areas will be significantly restricted.
The maps’ next layer shows how the rule expands the definition of regulated “adjacent waters” to cover all waters (including wetlands) that lie, even partially, within 100 feet on either side of these newly regulated ephemeral drains. Next, they show where even more “adjacent waters” may lie—and this is where the vast uncertainty comes in. Where any part of a water or wetland is within the 100-year floodplain of a tributary, and not more than 1,500 feet (1/4 mile) from the tributary, that entire water feature will be regulated. The uncertainty springs from the fact that many areas lack flood zone maps. In Missouri, there are 53 counties with no floodplain data, according to FEMA. What’s more, where they do exist, many such maps are out-of-date, and most ditches and ephemeral streams do not have mapped flood zones. The result is that farmers and other landowners lack even the basic tools to identify wetlands or other waters that are automatically regulated under the rule.
The final blow—the almost unlimited reach of the rule—is shown in the final map layer that covers waters that are not “tributaries” or “adjacent,” but may still be jurisdictional based on a “significant nexus” to downstream waters. The WOTUS rule allows “significant nexus” regulation of waters (including wetlands) that lie even partially within 4,000 feet (about ¾ mile) of any tributary. Mapping 4,000 feet from even just the known ephemeral streams—ignoring ditches and not-yet-identified ephemeral tributaries—shows that this 4,000-foot zone of uncertainty covers the entire landscape in many parts of the country.
The same is true of Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst’s family farm in Atchison County. AFBF’s analysis shows a dramatic change—no federal jurisdiction previously to virtually all of the property falling under the CWA as a result of the final rule.
“The maps illustrate what we have suspected for some time—EPA is radically expanding its authority to the detriment of farmers and anyone who works on the land,” said Hurst. “The U.S. House has voted to stop this rule and the Senate needs to do the same as soon as lawmakers return to Washington, D.C.”
To view the maps online, go to http://www.fb.org/issues/wotus/resources/
(Courtesy of Missouri Farm Bureau)