Fox urges EPA to ease burden on farmers, landowners

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox joined a 17-state coalition this week to support farmers and landowners by urging the Trump Administration to adopt its proposed replacement of the Obama-era “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule.

The coalition, in comments filed this week, argued the Trump administration’s proposal would restore reasonable, predictable lines between waters subject to federal and state regulation.

“Four years ago, Montana was one of the primary legal challengers to the WOTUS rule, which was never about environmental protection, but more about heavy-handed federal control of every small body of water, including irrigation ditches.” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “The new proposed rule will help Montanans know precisely under which circumstances they may be subject to the federal Clean Water Act, continuing their tradition of water stewardship for generations to come,” Fox added.

The coalition believes the new rule will correct flaws within the 2015 regulation, which extended authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers far beyond what Congress intended and the Constitution permits. The Trump Administration’s proposal also shows respect for the primary responsibility and right of states to regulate their own water resources.

The 2015 WOTUS rule was never implemented in Montana because Fox and other attorneys general were successful in their legal challenge. If it had been implemented, the federal government would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and asserted authority over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.

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