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Opponents seek restraint on interpretation of Clean Water Act

Opponents have been speaking out in numerous hearings on the federal government's reach over waterways. The federal government already has some control over water resources under the Clean Water Act, but that control has always been limited by certain provisions. Recently, an expansion of what is called the "waters of the United States" rule reached to deliver more power to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

That rule, which is being called WOTUS, is on hold after an order from a federal court. If enacted, the WOTUS rule puts additional waterways beneath Clean Water Act purview. Opponents of WOTUS say that it would expand the power various federal agencies have over water use. The agencies might also be granted additional power over certain lands that surround impacted waters.

A Farm Bureau member is one of the individuals speaking out in opposition to WOTUS, and Farm Bureau is one of the organizations standing against the enhancement of Clean Water Act powers. It's not that these opponents have anything against protecting American waterways; however, they do state that they believe the expansion of federal power under the act would make certain agricultural businesses much more difficult to run.

The Army Corps of Engineers is already interpreting certain elements of the Clean Water Act in a way that impedes farmers and ranchers, said the Farm Bureau member in a federal Senate subcommittee meeting. Farmers are unable to make changes between crops, for example, that could be necessary to sustain business. This recent news story doesn't have an ending. Both sides continue to battle regarding changes to the act. But it is a good illustration of how complex environmental law can be and why businesses dealing with issues of natural resources might want to work with legal professionals.

Source: AgAlert, "Hearing looks at Clean Water Act enforcement," Christine Souza, June 01, 2016

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