Law Cutting Waterway Protections to Benefit Ranchers

Factory farmers would be free to pollute local waterways, should Obama's Waters of the US rule be thrown out.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing the removal of the Waters of the US rule (WOTUS).The Obama administration created the rule in 2015 as part of the Clean Water Act to clearly define which waterways were under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) jurisdiction and included both navigable waters and tributaries connected to them. The Trump administration seeks to remove the rule to lessen regulation, particularly in states with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). On May 9, the EPA and US Army sent a letter to state governors to solicit input regarding the formulation of new waterway regulations—which some expressed should only be limited to large, navigable bodies of water. “This is an important, first step towards the restoration of law in environmental regulation,” American Farm Bureau Federation’s President Zippy Duvall said. “A distant and unaccountable Washington bureaucracy has too often punished farmers and ranchers for alleged infringements that have no basis in law.” Eliminating WOTUS would substantially reduce accountability of factory farmers for polluting local waterways should they not qualify for federal protection under the new rule. This year, a number of water protection organizations have identified animal agriculture as the culprit for polluting several major waterways including the Great Lakes, Big Sioux River, and Chesapeake Bay.

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