NCBA Policy Update: WOTUS, NEPA, ESA

NCBA Policy Update: WOTUS, NEPA, ESA

Across the U.S. there are several so-called alphabet agencies and programs that impact agriculture.

One that has been around for quite some time and currently finds itself in a bit of a mess is the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule, which under the Trump Administration morphed into the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

In April 2020, the Trump Administration finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Mary-Thomas Hart, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Deputy Environmental Counsel, says NCBA is currently involved in a number of federal court cases defending the rule.

Those are all in different stages of litigation, but during President Biden’s first week in office he issued an executive order requiring all administrative agencies to consider many of the rules finalized during the Trump Administration.

“That doesn’t mean that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule isn’t the law of the land. It is currently the law of the land in all 50 states, but EPA through the Department of Justice have requested that they be able to pull that roll back and continue to reconsider it internally. So, our litigation on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule is on hold right now, but in NWPR is the rule of law across the country.” 

Yet another example is the National Environmental Policy Act, better known as NEPA.

“We got some really nice rules during the Trump administration, related to NEPA and how that very complex environmental statute is implemented. NCBA is again in the courtroom defending these updated NEPA rules and so it’ll be interesting to see where the Biden administration goes with those, and where our federal court system takes them.” 

Also currently being discussed is the Endangered Species Act.

“The ESA has been fairly stable in the past, but I think we’ve seen, although it’s stable. it’s tough to get a species delisted wanted to recover. So, during the Trump administration, the Department of Interior finalized a number of ESA rules to modernize implementation of that act. There’s currently ongoing litigation related to those ESA rules and again, NCBA is part of the group that’s defending the modernization of those rules.” 

President Biden’s Interior Department is reviewing the rule changes, but no formal decisions have been made.