Local ag, environment officials react to repeal of Clean Water Rule

DELMARVA – Farmers across Delmarva are rejoicing following the repeal of an environmental protection regulation enacted by the Obama administration.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule was designed to provide clarity, and according to the EPA was meant to provide additional protections for waterways, created no additional burden for farmers.

But William Layton of Lazy Day Farms says ditches and ponds on his farm would be treated the same as a major waterway.

“Would dictate when and what I could do in those areas. Which would be most of my farm, because I’ve got a lot of ditches around. We’re in a fairly low lying area.”

It’s a message backed by other farmers in the area we spoke with. They say the work that Maryland farmers have done, including nutrient management regulations, regulations on when and where they can spread manure, and cover crop usage, adding that there’s no need for additional rules.

We spoke with environmental officials in Maryland and Delaware.

Rich King with Delaware Surf Fishing tells 47ABC that Delaware needs more protections — not fewer.

Kathy Phillips with the Assateague Coastal Trust sent us a statement:

“Everyone has a right to clean water that is swimmable, fishable and drinkable. With each Clean Water Act roll back we are returning to the days of polluted rivers on fire and water that is not safe to swim in, fish from, or drink.

“In Maryland we have state laws that will supersede and protect most of our waterways and wetlands, but sadly this administrations actions could open many acres of Delmarva upland wetlands and forested vernal pools to development. Losing these important upstream ‘sponges’ will allow more pollution and nutrients to reach our bays & rivers leading to greater algae blooms and dead zones, and exacerbate downstream flooding.”

Delaware Senator Tom Carper released the following statement:

“After several confusing and conflicting Supreme Court decisions, businesses, farmers, developers, state officials and even members of Congress urged the EPA to provide clarity on which streams and wetlands should be regulated by the Clean Water Act. The result was the Clean Water Rule, and it took into account 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, 400 stakeholder meetings and more than one million public comments.

“Repealing the Clean Water Rule is a rebuke of sound science and overwhelming public opinion, and it will put millions of Americans’ drinking water at risk. What’s more, between the worsening trade wars and willful ignorance of climate change, and despite promises otherwise, our farmers will be the collateral damage. This repeal will only create additional legal and environmental uncertainty for our nation’s agricultural sector, which relies on clean and healthy water.

“The Trump Administration is engaged in a full-on, two-part attack on clean water. This repeal, coupled with a Clean Water Rule replacement regulation the Administration is seeking to finalize later this year, will jeopardize up to 60 percent of the country’s waterways and wetlands. These waterbodies feed into the drinking water of nearly 1 in 3 Americans. It is too clear that this repeal is the first step on a slippery slope that will jeopardize public health and the local economies dependent on access to healthy water and viable wetlands.”

But farmers we spoke with say these issues need to be solved at the state and local levels, not a one-size-fits-all approach from Washington.

“Even in a state, at a state level, regulations need to be different in each area because of how we farm in each different area,” said Layton.

Farmers in the region did express concern that while Maryland farmers are taking the lead on environmental issues, states such as Pennsylvania could be let off the hook.