Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Ag Secretary Bill Northey, along with other Iowa leaders, on October 16 sent a letter and submitted comments to United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and to a top official of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, civil works assistant secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, on the proposed "Waters of the United States" federal rule. EPA wants the proposed rule to be enacted under the Clean Water Act, or CWA.
"The overriding concern of a diverse group of impacted stakeholders, including state leaders, is that the proposed rule will impose significant barriers to the advancement of innovative, state- and local-driven conservation and environmental practices that would actually advance our common goal of water quality," the letter reads. "Because the proposed rule is fatally flawed, we request that it be withdrawn and that future rulemaking be appropriately coordinated with the states and relevant stakeholders. We agree that clean water requires good, clear, well-designed regulations; unfortunately, the ones currently being proposed are not."
Regulations currently being proposed are confusing, unclear
The letter from the Iowa officials outlines four key concerns from relevant stakeholders regarding the rule being proposed by EPA:
• Disregard for states' lead role under Clean Water Act to protect and promote water quality. Section 101(b) of the CWA clearly states that, "it is the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration, preservation and enhancement) of land and water resources..."
The proposed rule confuses federal control with environmental protection. The State of Iowa believes that environmental protection is best driven locally.
• A disconnect between content and intent. The federal government's proposed approach, and the content of the proposed rule, would seriously impair advancements in water quality in the State of Iowa. As an example, too many Iowa farmers would be forced to gain federal permits to advance water quality infrastructure projects, which would discourage agricultural producers from undertaking the very projects that would improve water quality throughout the state.
• Increased uncertainty from the proposed federal rule. The proposed rule increases, rather than decreases uncertainty for various stakeholders. The proposed rule is more ambiguous than current law and promises to be tied up in litigation for years to come, creating uncertainty within conservation interests, industries and communities across the state.
• Underestimation of costs of the burdensome proposed federal rule. Permits and compliance costs will siphon finite resources that would better be used to advance conservation best practices and infrastructure in Iowa's countryside. Permitting delays would also increase the costs of conservation and economic development projects. Additional costs would impact public transportation projects, renewable energy projects, electricity distribution, disaster recovery projects, mitigation projects, and so on. Every day those projects are delayed has real costs that are currently unaccounted for by the federal government.
There would also be additional enforcement costs that current staffing levels at both the federal and state levels are not positioned to meet. The rule as proposed would essentially be an unfunded mandate on state agencies tasked with CWA enforcement.
An unfunded mandate on state agencies to enforce the rule
The letter concludes, "The federal government's proposed rule seems to be more concerned with asserting federal control over local water bodies than actually improving local water quality. Thus, we were encouraged recently by the bipartisan support in the United States House of Representatives to block the advancement of this flawed rule. Those concerns were similarly echoed in a bipartisan fashion by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture members who unanimously called on the Federal government to withdraw the rule. We strongly urge you to listen to the consensus concerns of the states, including Iowa, and withdraw this rule."
The Director of Iowa Department of Natural Resources Chuck Gipp, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority Debi Durham, Director of Iowa Department of Transportation Paul Trombino III, Chair of the Iowa Utilities Board Libby Jacobs and Director of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Mark Schouten joined Branstad, Reynolds and Northey in signing the letter.
If proposed WOTUS rule is enacted, it would be a disaster
State of Iowa leaders care deeply about water quality, says Branstad. Since 2011, new General Fund appropriations for water quality related initiatives have increased by 26%. In just the last two years (FY 2014 and FY 2015), over $50 million dollars were allocated to support water quality related state initiatives. This historic level of investment does not even include the cost-share dollars spent by farmers, landowners and communities on these efforts. The full letter and enclosures from the letter can be read at governor.iowa.gov/
Grassley agrees this rule would hinder, not help, water quality
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa on October 16 released the following statement regarding the state of Iowa's comment submission to the EPA regarding the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule. Grassley says:
"The proposed rule would add most streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds and ditches that are currently subject to state water quality measures to the jurisdiction of the federal government for permitting and regulatory requirements. This could result in significant red tape for Iowa farmers as they make routine decisions about how best to use their land. The rule would, ironically, hamper conservation projects that are aimed to improve water quality." Grassley is a co-sponsor of legislation that would prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing the March 2014 proposed rule.
You are urged to submit public comments to EPA now
Iowans can submit comments on the rule until November 14, 2014.
"This topic is consistently brought up at my town hall meetings," says Grassley. "Iowans understand just how far-reaching the potential impact of the proposed rule could be. Redefining what a navigable river is, and asserting federal control in places where water doesn't flow, shows how out of touch the Obama administration is. The EPA's attitude toward agriculture creates an uneasiness among Iowans who know the major impact agriculture has on the state's economy. I appreciate the comments from Gov. Branstad and the state leaders. Their submission of their comments to EPA reflects the sentiment I hear as well across Iowa."