Byrne’s column arguments were misleading about EPA

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dear Editor,

In response to U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne’s recent piece, “Bad regulations hurt farmers, foresters” (Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014), Congressman Byrne is simply wrong about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) proposed rule to protect our water resources. His opening sentence regarding impending regulatory disaster after a thunderstorm is quite vivid, and if it were true, would be disturbing.

However, what EPA and the Corps are proposing will not regulate puddles, nor will it cover ponds or man-made waterways that were never covered by the law.
The rule will not regulate all ditches — regulation of ditches will actually be reduced because the rule will exclude ditches that are constructed through dry lands and don’t have water in them year-round.

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The rule will not regulate stock or irrigation ponds on farms created on dry land. In fact, the rule for the first time specifically excludes stock watering and irrigation ponds constructed in dry lands.

The rule does not give EPA and the Corps additional power over farms and ranches, as suggested by Rep. Byrne. In fact, all historical exemptions and exclusions for agriculture are kept in place.
Rep. Byrne also incorrectly states that EPA and the Corps are trying to bypass Congress. The truth is that the agencies are responding to calls from Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify these regulations. Specifically, Chief Justice Roberts said that a rulemaking would clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Congressman Byrne makes reference to the Clean Water Act as “trivial rules.” The proposed rule would clarify protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies that 2.7 million of us in Alabama depend on for our drinking water supplies. I would hardly call the drinking water for 2.7 million Alabamians trivial, nor the streams and wetlands that provide this water.

Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office