King to EPA: Get Clean Water Rule Right for Maine Farmers

Leads letter to EPA calling for clearer guidance for environmental rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 4, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Rather than vote to advance legislation that would severely undermine environmental protections for streams and wetlands, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that he is leading a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding that the agency provide clarity on agricultural exemptions and more concise guidelines on compliance in the EPA-issued clean water rules.

Senator King’s letter addresses concerns that Senator King and many farmers across the country share about the ambiguity of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule as currently written and how it may create uncertainty that could have a detrimental impact on farming operations. However, rather than voting to proceed to legislation that would dismantle the rule in its entirety and undermine key environmental protections, Senator King led his colleagues in calling on the EPA to work with farmers to get the rule right. Senator King released the following statement:

“While Maine’s farmers shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer and a soil scientist just to build an irrigation ditch, my concern is that this bill goes too far – it’s the legislative equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut,” Senator King said. “For our farmers and everyone in Maine who relies on the land to make a living, the EPA’s clean water rule has created some uncertainty, but the bill on the Senate floor today goes too far in undermining the very critical protections for our environment. These protections that keep our waterways free of pollution are too important to the people of Maine – and to Senator Ed Muskie’s legacy – to toss aside haphazardly.

“I believe it is the responsibility of the EPA to provide more clear and concise guidance on how this rule will work in the real world,”he continued. “And, while I won’t support the bill on the floor today, I will make sure that if the EPA fails to offer Maine farmers the guidance they need to do their job, then I will not hesitate to support a bill that will amend or change the rule so that it does.”

The Senate will vote today on a procedural motion to advance a bill that would block the EPA’s Clean Water Rule and narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, landmark legislation passed in 1972 under the leadership of Maine Senator Ed Muskie that is the primary federal law regulating water pollution. The legislation, in addition to undermining environmental protection, comes under Senate consideration prematurely, as the implementation of the proposed EPA rule has been suspended due to continued examination by the federal courts. This suspension provides an opportunity to get the clarifications and guidance before the rule is implemented.

However, recognizing the legitimate concerns of farmers across the country who continue to be uncertain about the impact of the EPA rule on their businesses, Senator King is open to considering changes if his concerns are not addressed.

The complete text of the letter, which was also signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is below:

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November 3, 2015

The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

       The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310

Dear Administrator McCarthy and Assistant Secretary Darcy:

We are writing in regards to the Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Final Rule, and the need for the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to better clarify the implications of this final rule.

We all agree that clean water is critical and that your agencies have the important role of protecting our streams and waterways as mandated under the landmark Clean Water Act.  We recognize that the task of clarifying the definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ is an important, yet complicated, undertaking.

We all provided suggestions and relayed concerns from our constituents during the rulemaking process.  We were pleased that some of these concerns were addressed in the final rule.  We believe the Federal Water Quality Protection Act offered by Senator Barrasso undermines the ability to adequately safeguard our precious waterways and undercuts a need for clarity on the appropriate jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.  Given the current stay placed on this rule by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, this is also the wrong time for a legislative approach.

However, while we cannot currently support the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, we believe the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers can and must do better to address the legitimate issues that have been raised in regards to the implementation of this rule.  We call on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to provide clearer and concise implementation guidance to ensure that the rule is effectively and consistently interpreted.  Farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors deserve this clarity and certainty.  Should the EPA not provide this clarity or enforce this rule in a way that erodes traditional exemptions, we reserve the right to support efforts in the future to revise the rule.

We look forward to working with you to sufficiently address the concerns of our constituents in regards to the Clean Water Rule.

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