Some Minnesota Farmers Applaud EPA's Clean Water Rule Reversal

July 05, 2017 05:34 PM

Some Minnesota farmers are rejoicing after the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed rescinding the 2015 Waters of the United States rule.

The move would return the Clean Water Act to its original 1986 definition - before an Obama-era rule was stalled by a flurry of legal challenges.


And while some farmers are relieved, some environmental groups call it indefensible, and even disgusting.

But fourth generation farmer Kevin Paap said the 2015 rule muddied the interpretation of exactly what waters demand federal regulation. Papp said the CWA rule broadened the definition of WOTUS so far that he and other farmers didn't know where it ended.

"That would mean no matter how big, how small and how long there was water on it," Paap said.

Without the EPA's reversal, Paap said things like small, seasonal wetlands and irrigation ditches could have had the country's farms covered in red tape.

"If it's a regulated water, before we do anything it's 'Do we need a permit? How do we get a permit?' Paap said. "It's things that could just be water for a couple of days."

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency's proposal would "return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses." 

Shannon Lotthammer, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's director of environmental analysis and outcome division, said the state will be fine under the CWA's 1986 definition.

The agency, however, is worried about what might come next. The second step of President Donald Trump's February executive order includes developing a new rule for WOTUS.

"Could it be beneficial? Could it be harmful? That's the big unknown," Lotthammer said. "That then creates that potential uncertainty."

Paap said when the rule is crafted this time around, the voice of farmers should be heard.

"We've got to do this together," Paap said. "We've got to have a group that are all together at the table."


Tyler Berg

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