EPA’s Clean Water Act proposal sparks concern among Nebraska lawmakers

By: Lauren Fabrizi

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposal to expand the power of the federal government under the Clean Water Act is sparking concern from Nebraska lawmakers.

They say this would erase the distinction between bodies of water, meaning water in a ditch on the side of the road near someone’s home would be regulated the same as major streams and lakes.

“The rules are written so broadly that there would be no end to what they could do,” U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said. “Which I feel very strongly Congress never intended when they passed this law in the ’70s.”

Dean Edson is with the Nebraska Association of Resource Districts. He’s also been a farmer his entire life.

He believes the new regulation would affect how farmers and ranchers use their land.

“They could come in and dictate what fertilizer, if any, you could use on your own private home,” he said.

Edson understands those farmers may be forced to obtain Clean Water Act permits, which he said could cost several thousand dollars.

According to our congressional leaders, the federal government’s regulations would also expand to power plants, manufacturers, construction sites, and even places like golf courses.

Edson said Nebraska already has its own clean water rules in place.

“We are blessed in Nebraska by having clean water because of the proactive involvement by our citizens to get involved with their local natural resources district,” he said.

To raise awareness, a coalition called Common Sense Nebraska has recently been launched. 13 organizations announced their partnership Thursday, bringing the total to 20.

“I’m hopeful that this coalition as we move forward will continue to grow,” U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said.

“This will be a hard vote, but I think this will get bipartisan support,” Johanns said. “I think we could repeal this.”

There will be a comment period open to the public on this issue until October. You can head to the EPA’s website to voice your opinion here. Lawmakers said the direction the EPA will head will be clearer after those comments are evaluated.