Last week, a judge in North Dakota ruled against an EPA decision that would have imposed stricter water quality regulations for streams and tributaries around the U.S. Wyoming and 12 other Western states sued the federal government over the rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule. Supporters say it would help states comply with the Clean Water Act by protecting wetlands and stopping industrial dumping. But a federal judge sided with those states, agreeing it would place too heavy a burden on the agriculture industry.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Director Brett Moline says it’s not just the cost of extra permitting that’s the problem. It’s the amount of red tape.
“It would broaden out tremendously what my members would need to get a permit for,” he says. “Especially in the irrigated areas where irrigation structures, ditches, canals, in order to work those fields, you’d have to have a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Currently you don’t need that.”
Moline says in the past, only waters deep enough to float a boat had to be regulated. But he says the new rule now includes shallow and intermittent streams. Moline says the problem with the rule is that it takes a one size fits all approach.
“The United States is a highly varied nation. You look at just the differences in Wyoming. From the Red Desert where there’s four inches, six inches of rainfall in a year to areas that are getting over 20. We can adapt those rules to fit the local area. That states can do it within a state.”
Following the federal judge’s decision, the EPA said it would still go forward with enforcing the rule in the other 37 states not included in the lawsuit. Over half the states have sued but only the North Dakota court imposed an injunction to stop the rule from going into effect.