Chairman Thompson cites ‘EPA’s appetite for power’; Rep. Duarte tells of his farm’s 5-year battle
By Sherry Bunting, original story published in Farmshine, March 16, 2023
UPDATE 2023 – On May 25, 2023, All nine justices agreed to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that endorsed the Biden administration’s broad definition of waters of the United States, or WOTUS, the term for what falls under federal enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The EPA’s WOTUS regulations redefined what land and water is subject to federal requirements under the 1972 Clean Water Act. While the law references “navigable waters,” conflicting agency guidance and confusion in the courts led to new regulations aimed at clarifying the scope of the law. During the Obama and Biden administrations, the EPA exploited that confusion to significantly expand the reach of the federal law.
“If the EPA had its way, nearly 97 percent of land in Iowa would be subject to onerous federal red tape. You’d have to get permission from Uncle Sam before moving dirt on your own land under this administration’s WOTUS regulations. Farmers could’ve faced steep fines if water pooled in a ditch after a rainstorm because of the EPA’s far-reaching rules. Thankfully, the Supreme Court saw through this federal overreach and unanimously determined that it violated the Clean Water Act. After years of uncertainty, today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for farmers, builders, landowners and common sense,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said.
See below some of the background presented in the United States House of Representatives in March.
WASHINGTON — In mid-March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Joint Resolution — H.J. Res. 27 – expressing Congressional disapproval of the Biden EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
This resolution of disapproval had 170 Republican cosponsors from 42 states and was passed by the House 227 to 198 under the Congressional Review Act on Thursday, March 9. Nine Democrats voted for the resolution, including members of the House Agriculture Committee such as ranking member David Scott of Georgia.
The Senate also voted for the joint resolution, which was later vetoed by President Biden.
Prior to House passage, Republican members of the House Ag Committee called out the flawed WOTUS rule, stating that the Biden EPA undid the reasonable clarifications that were made under the previous administration.
“Make no mistake about it, this rule isn’t about clean water. It’s about the Biden EPA’s appetite for power,” said Ag Committee Chairman Glenn ‘G.T.’ Thompson of Pennsylvania prior to passage of the resolution seeking to block it. “America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners deserve a WOTUS definition that is fair to agriculture and maintains the historical reach of the Clean Water Act—neither of which is accomplished by the Biden Administration’s flawed rule.”
Numerous members spoke to the resolution on the House floor, including the freshman Congressman from the 13th district of California, John Duarte.
As a farmer, Duarte’s 5-year battle with the EPA over plowing through an area that ‘could’ become a puddle a rainstorm is well documented and was reported in several Farmshine articles throughout 2017.
Duarte ultimately settled his case to save the family business after fighting the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers as long as he could under government threat seeking tens of millions of dollars in so-called ‘reparations.’
His settlement admitted no guilt and left an uncertain precedent for agriculture when WOTUS rules are unclear and subjective as in the Obama and now Biden EPA rules.
“The Supreme Court has been dealing with this for years, and if we don’t get it right here (in the legislature), and keep the agencies honest, we are going to have a real food shortage on our hands,” said Duarte.
“I am a farmer who was prosecuted under the Clean Waters Act for growing wheat in a wheat field that had been planted to wheat many times before,” he explained, asking members to squint to see the little light spot in the field on an enlarged photo poster he brought with him. “This is ‘a jurisdictional wetland’ under some definitions of the Clean Water Act — not a navigable water. There are no frogs, no fish, no storks, no egrets — and no water,” he said.
Wheat had been planted in this field many times, and it was grassland just prior to Duarte’s tillage to replant it to wheat.
“The surrounding grasslands — all the surrounding grasslands here (in the photo) — are ‘jurisdictional wetlands’ under the Biden (WOTUS) rule. They prosecuted me as a farmer for growing wheat in a wheat field that had been planted to wheat many, many times before, and they threatened me with fines of $2.8 million and reparations of up to $40 million for tilling through 22 acres of ‘wetlands’ such as this,” said Duarte of the federal case brought against him during the Obama administration.
“This is what we are talking about. This is the land grab. This is the authority. This is the threat to the American food system that we’re talking about,” Duarte declared.
On a second poster, he showed the investigative team and equipment, paid for by taxpayers through the Department of Justice, sitting in a 3-foot hole investigating his 3 to 7 inch tillage to a ‘vernal pool.’
The 10 government investigators were on his property for 10 days and issued a report that cost over $1 million. Some of the so-called ‘wetlands’, the ‘vernal pools,’ – devoid of water – were 16 square feet, the size of a card table.
“How is that a jurisdictional wetland? This (rule) is a direct attack on our farming and our food supply,” said Duarte.