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WOTUS a case study for reform

WASHINGTON -- Anyone questioning the need for regulatory reform need only look at the process used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its efforts to implement the Waters of the U.S.—WOTUS—says Paul Schlegel, director of energy and policy team for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

During an issue briefing to more than 130 Michigan farmers at Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 2017 Washington Legislative Seminar, Schlegel said there’s a desperate need to update the nation’s 71-year-old Administrative Procedures Act.

“Clearly WOTUS is a great example of what can happen when things go wrong,” Schlegel pointed out.

“The agency (EPA) was not valid in how they were looking at the science, how they looked at the law and how they evaluated the economics. And they clearly went overboard on the impact it would have on farmers and their ability to produce crops.”

EPA engaged in a social media campaign to lobby their case and garner public support for WOTUS, Schlegel said. And despite the Drumpf Administration’s recent directive to repeal the rule, that’s only the start of a potentially lengthy process.

“EPA must initiate that process,” Schlegel said.  “You can’t change it by a simple stroke of the pen, but we can change the process through regulatory reform legislation.”

Schlegel said the U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation, HR 26 and HR 5, with bipartisan support in January. The package is now pending in the Senate Homeland Security Committee; Michigan Senator Gary Peters is a member.

“We’re trying to underscore the importance to agriculture,” Schlegel said, in hopes of getting the measures moved out of committee for a full Senate vote.

If approved, Schlegel said the two-bill package would address a wide range of other agricultural regulatory challenges, including EPA’s Worker Protection Standards (WPS) that did not fully evaluate the costs and benefits called for in AFBF policy on regulatory reform.

“If you look at the AFBF policy our delegates decided on, they want a system that takes into account the costs and the benefits of what the regulations require, they want to see more transparency, they want to see a longer comment period for people who are affected, and they want to see the use of sound science.”