Coalition Report

By Alicia Claire Lloyd
Clean Water Policy Coordinator,
Missouri Coalition For The Environment

Missouri’s Lawsuit Threatens Clean Water

No sooner had the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Protection Rule, did states’ attorneys generals start filing suit. The rule clarifies the definition of “waters of the US” — a clause at the foundation of the Clean Water Act and mired in controversy after Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006 left the definition ambiguous. The rule specifies which waters have a substantial impact on the health of downstream waters and, therefore, should be protected under the Act. The rule emphasizes the importance of watershed function and the connectedness of tributary streams to bigger rivers. Clean water upstream is critical to clean water downstream. For good reason, protected waters include traditional navigable waters, their tributaries, adjacent waters, and other connected waters.

At this point, Missouri is one of 28 states and several business groups – like the American Farm Bureau Association – suing the EPA and the Corps.

The litigants’ claims are erroneous – they argue the rule is a federal “land grab”, an act of government overreach to expand authority over land use. The Rule protects water quality and includes agricultural exemptions for normal farming practices. They further argue that the agencies did not listen to input from industries like agriculture as they wrote the final rule. While opponents have a vested interest in restricting regulation, the EPA and Corps properly vetted the new rule. In fact, they incorporated the feedback from more than 400 public meetings and over a million public comments.

Despite the explicit reassurances outlined in the Rule that retain, and in some cases expand, agricultural exemptions from the Clean Water Act, the Rule’s most vocal opponent is industrial agriculture. The Act requires permits to discharge pollutants into jurisdictional waters. The Clean Water Rule clearly exempts normal farming, ranching, and silviculture practices from regulation. Meanwhile, opponents continue to support the Congressional attacks on the Rule – litigation is much more expensive and a much longer process. A bill to kill the Rule has already passed through the House (H.R. 1732) and another is working its way through the Senate (S.B.1140).

Claims of government overreach or egregious threats to farmers are unfounded. Even though the public response to the Rule has been overwhelmingly supportive, our Attorney General is prioritizing corporate profit over clean water and the health of Missourians.

For more information on how to support the Rule, visit www.moenvironment.org.