We have known for some time that the Environmental Protection Agency was in the midst of a historic federal takeover of water (and land) jurisdiction. The avenue for this overreach was the Waters of the U.S. – or WOTUS – rule. But now, we have learned the problem runs much deeper.
A cache of internal memos that federal regulators intended to keep private reveals a culture of secrecy, falsehood and dysfunction that permeated the Waters of the U.S. rule-making process.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has released more than 50 pages of documents in which the Army Corps of Engineers repeatedly rebuked EPA officials for their abuse of the rule-making process. The entire economic analysis used to support the rule, Army Corps officials wrote, had no basis in either science or economics. This from a federal agency that was supposed to be part of the process.
It is abundantly clear that EPA went rogue, deciding to go its own way with a rule that used flawed economic studies and would not work. The arrogance of the EPA was never reined in by the administration, and the internal memos were stamped “Litigation Sensitive,” a distinct sign they were never to see the light of day.
The documents also show that the rule makes it impossible for anyone, including the Corps, to know which features on the landscape are regulated and which are not. The Corps even raised concern that it would be difficult to determine whether “a low depressional area on a farm field that ponds water after a rainstorm for 10 days” would be a regulated “water” or an excluded “puddle.” EPA insisted throughout the rule-making process that “puddles” would not be regulated.
As the Army Corps memos clearly show, political appointees repeatedly ignored vigorous objections of career agency staff in order to rush the rule through. The Army Corps’ name is on the rule, yet experts tasked with determining its validity said they wanted the Corps’ name removed from the economic analysis used to justify it. That should say volumes.
Farm Bureau, both on the state and national level, has from the beginning called on EPA to immediately withdraw its flawed rule, go back to the drawing board and address the concerns of farmers, ranchers and business owners across the country.
Given these recent developments, that call cannot be louder, and we urge and appreciate congressional action to stop this private property takeover.
Richard Felts and his family farm in Montgomery County. He was elected as Kansas Farm Bureau president in November 2014.