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Branstad and state officials comment on "Waters of the US" proposed rule

Branstad, Reynolds, Northey and state officials submit comments on federal “Waters of the United States” proposed rule

Proposed federal rule will impose barriers to the advancement of innovative, state- and local-driven conservation practices that would advance our common goal of water quality

Gov. Terry E. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Secretary Bill Northey, along with relevant state leaders, sent a letter on October 16th and submitted comments to United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Army for Civil Works Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy on the proposed “Waters of the United States” federal rule under the Clean Water Act (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 “Because the proposed rule is fatally flawed, we request that it be withdrawn and that future rulemaking be appropriately coordinated with States and relevant stakeholders. We agree that clean water requires good, clear, well-designed regulations – unfortunately, the ones currently being proposed are not.”

The letter outlines four key concerns from relevant stakeholders: 

  • Disregard for states’ lead role under the CWA 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

Permitting 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.

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. 

State of Iowa leaders care deeply about water quality. Since 2011, new General Fund appropriations for water quality related initiatives have increased by 26%. In just the last two years (FY 14 and FY 15), 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 can be read here. The enclosures from the letter can be read here. 

Written by PDI
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