Schmidt joins suit against EPA clean water rule

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined eight other states in filing a federal lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to block the Environmental Protection Agency from extending clean water regulations into small ponds and tributaries.

“Congress never intended for the federal government to regulate ditches or farm ponds,” Schmidt said in a statement released Tuesday. “This regulation grossly exceeds the authority granted to federal agencies by the Clean Water Act – authority that rightfully belongs to the states and that is limited by private property rights protected by the Constitution.”

The new rules, published in the Federal Register Monday, clarifiy the definition of “waters of the United States,” which are subject to regulation by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The rules are set to take effect Aug. 28.

Traditionally, waters of the United States have included “navigable” waters that cross state lines or are used in interstate commerce. But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times that many upstream waters and tributaries must also be regulated because they have a significant impact on downstream waters. The standard is whether there is a “significant nexus” with those downstream waters.

For its part, the EPA denies that the new rules impose any new regulatory hardship and it says they are merely a new interpretation of existing standards, based on “science, Supreme Court decisions … and the agencies’ experience and technical expertise.”

“This rule not only maintains current statutory exemptions, it expands regulatory exclusions from the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to make it clear that this rule does not add any additional permitting requirements on agriculture,” the agency’s public notice states.

The other states involved in the suit are Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia.