Senate Acts on WOTUS Legislation

waterThis week, the Senate finally took up a series of votes on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ “waters of the United States” rule. A major priority for cattle ranchers and all land-use stakeholders, Montana Stockgrowers has been working aggressively with our Congressional Representatives and Attorney General Tim Fox to repeal WOTUS and limit EPA’s attempt at overreach in controlling our water on private lands.

Earlier this week, the Senate took a vote on SB 1140 – Federal Water Quality Protection Act, sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), which failed to obtain the necessary 60 votes to pass. SB 1140 aimed to repeal WOTUS in favor of rules to “protect traditional navigable water and wetlands from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners.”

Montana Stockgrowers Association, along with Attorney General Tim Fox and Montana Chamber of Commerce signed on in support of SB 1140. Senator Steve Daines supported the bill and testified in front of Congress, sharing comments from MSGA President, Gene Curry.

“MSGA thanks Senator Daines for supporting SB 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, and his continued opposition to work to stop the final WOTUS rule. This rule is an unwise and unwarranted expansion of EPA’s regulatory authority over Montana’s waters, and would have a significant detrimental impact on Montana’s ranchers.”

Watch Daines’ testimony regarding WOTUS here. Following the vote, Senator Jon Tester signed on to a letter to EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, encouraging the agency to “provide clearer and concise implementation guidance to ensure that the rule is effectively and consistently interpreted,” recognizing this as something ranchers deserve.

The Senate then turned to consideration of a joint resolution of disapproval sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). The vote in support of the joint resolution showed bi-partisan support and the resolution passed 53-44. SJ 22 “would order the EPA and Corps to withdraw the WOTUS rule and would prevent the agencies from further similar rulemaking.” (Farm Progress) The joint resolution must still be considered by the House before going to the President’s desk.

Montana Stockgrowers continues to work aggressively with our state and national leaders to represent the interests of our members on this important national policy. We encourage all MSGA members to attend policy committee meetings during our upcoming Annual Convention for further discussion on this and other important policy topics.

A full Annual Convention agenda and registration can be found on our website at

EPA Releases Waters of the U.S. Rule

waterThe Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule was finalized by EPA and Army Corps on May 27, 2015.  MSGA is currently reviewing the rule, but initially, it appears few changes have been made from the proposed rule. In a number of cases, the rule represents an expansion of federal jurisdiction beyond current practices and the limitations affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The agencies received over 1 million comments on the WOTUS proposal before they closed the second comment period on November 14, 2014. MSGA, working with NCBA, also viewed the new rule as a:

  • Increase in jurisdiction over ephemeral streams
  • New expansive jurisdiction over adjacent waters
  • Many ditches subject to federal regulation

MSGA provided extensive comments in opposition to the proposed rule, including:

  1. Removal of intermittent and ephemeral non-navigable streams from the rule.
  2. Remove the inclusion of ditches in the definition of tributary.
  3. Remove the provision that would make isolated wetlands, ponds and other open waters per se jurisdictional if they are located within a riparian area or floodplain.
  4. Withdraw the Interpretive Rule that limits the Sec. 404 “normal farming, silviculture and ranching” exemption to 56 NRCS practices, which limits landowner protections.

The Agencies have estimated the rule will cost as much as $306 million annually. MSGA is currently working with others to consider possible avenues to rewrite or halt implementation of the rule. Due to the concern over the rule, there are currently two bills in Congress to halt the proposed WOTUS Rule.

The first is the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act (H.R. 1732). This bill calls for the EPA to withdraw their rule and has passed the full House by a bi-partisan vote of 261-155.

In Senate, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) was introduced to Environment and Public Works Committee. This bill would also require the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the WOTUS proposal and develop a new proposal that would reach consensus with state and local governments on defining “Waters of the United States.” Senator Steve Daines is cosponsor of S. 1140 legislation.