The U.S. EPA on Tuesday said it would allow farmers, ranchers and other interested stakeholders more time – until Oct. 20 – to comment on its proposed definition for waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.
The extension tacks on nearly three extra months to the comment period, which was scheduled to end July 21. Comment on the interpretive rule governing agricultural exemptions that accompanied the Waters of the U.S. rule will be extended from June 5 to July 7.
The proposed rule would dictate what falls under the definition of waters of the U.S., therefore designating EPA's and Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction areas for enforcement of regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act.
Related: EPA Opens Comments on Waters of the US Language
Farm and livestock groups suggest the rules could expand EPA's ability to regulate ditches and other areas on private land, including intermittent and ephemeral streams. If regulated, the groups say farmers could be subject to permits and other requirements before completing typical farming and ranching tasks.
In a letter sent last week requesting additional comment time on the proposal, more than 70 groups said if the rule were to be approved as written, application of manure on lands near such streams, for example, could be considered a discharge and require a CWA permit.
The American Farm Bureau says EPA has "misrepresented" the proposed rule's impacts on land use.
"If more people knew how regulators want to require permits for common activities on dry land, or penalize landowners for not getting them, they would be outraged," AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This latest rule broadly expands federal jurisdiction and threatens local land-use and zoning authority. Simply put, it is an end-run around Congress and the Supreme Court."
Read commentary from Farm Futures blogger and ag attorney Gary Baise For more on the EPA's proposed waters rule.