In a state where cattle is king, a ranchers’ association is voicing its opposition to federal guidelines it says would hurt the cattle business.
The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers objecting to the proposed definition of “Waters of the United States.”
As the Southeast Texas Record has previously reported, under the regulations proposed by the EPA and Army, the definition of “navigable waters” will include ponds on private property, stock tanks and dry ditches.
The TSCRA submitted a letter to the federal organizations on Nov. 14, outlining what it claims are problems with the proposal.
“The proposed rule will have a significant detrimental impact to the U.S. cattle industry as it entails new regulatory requirements on cattle producers,” wrote Pete Bonds, president of the TSCRA. “Further, it does not comply with limitations articulated by Unites States Supreme Court decisions, and overall usurps the federalism concept underpinning the Clean Water Act (CWA) when passed by Congress in 1972.”
“As a cattle rancher and landowner, the EPA water rule proposal causes me a great deal of concern,” said Bonds in a press release. “If implemented the federal government would have control over all water in the U.S., clear down to the water that falls off the brim of my hat when it rains.”
In its 28-page letter, the TSCRA asserts the proposed rule expands the federal government’s jurisdiction beyond the authority of the Clean Water Act.
“The proposed rule would expand the authority of the agencies to cover thousands, if not millions, of new features through the agencies’ use of broad and ambiguous language, making it a limitless expansion of authority that cannot be supported by the CWA or the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.,” the letter states.
The group claims the rule goes even further to expand EPA’s authority to not only water, but also ditches and man-made conveyances that could hold water. “Additionally, it would require landowners to obtain costly permits to apply pesticides, graze cattle, conduct construction projects and perform other routine maintenance on their land. These permits can take up to a year to receive,” Bonds claims.
Bonds writes that the new definition of “waters of the United States” would include isolated wetlands in pastures, and encompasses “virtually all artificial stock ponds west of the Mississippi River.”
According to his letter, a dry ditch could be a “water of the U.S.” under the proposed definition if it flows once per year but drains to a jurisdictional creek.
“Is it truly the agencies’ intent to capture all ditches that ever drain to a larger ditch that then drains to a creek or other water the agency defines as TNW (Traditional Navigable Waters)? If not, the agencies should make that clear.”
Bonds emphasized that making ditches a jurisdictional feature “would cripple the production of food” and require permits to conduct routine farming and ranching activities.
The ranching association claims the proposed rule would “obliterate the rights of states” under the Clean Water Act and the Constitution, and “tramples on the private property rights of livestock producers.”
“TSCRA believes this proposed rule goes so far as to cover virtually ever piece of dry land across the country through one way or another, depriving land owners of the use and enjoyment of their land and severely impacting their ability to make a living off of it,” the letter states.
The group also argues that there are a “vast number of missing pieces” in the proposed rule and the rulemaking process that is preventing a public comment period.
In conclusion, Bonds writes that the TSCRA “strongly urges” the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule
“This rule amounts to the largest land grab in history and would not be good for the cattle industry or the landowners in our country. I hope the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will take our comments into serious consideration and realize the detrimental impact this proposal could have on our important industry if it is implemented,” Bonds said in a press release.