sunny.png
Saturday August 17th, 2019 6:54PM

Big winners in Trump rollback of wetlands rules? Developers

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump pointed to farmers Monday as winners from the administration's proposed rollback of federal protections for wetlands and waterways across the country, describing farmers crying in gratitude when he ordered the change.

But under long-standing federal law and rules, farmers and farmland already are exempt from most of the regulatory hurdles on behalf of wetlands that the Trump administration is targeting. Because of that, environmental groups long have argued that builders, oil and gas drillers and other industry owners would be the big winners if the government adopts the pending rollback, making it easier to fill in bogs, creeks and streams for plowing, drilling, mining or building.

Government numbers released last month support that argument.

Real estate developers and those in other business sectors take out substantially more permits than farmers for projects impinging on wetlands, creeks and streams, and they stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief from the Trump administration's rollback of wetlands protections.

Speaking to the American Farm Bureau Federation in New Orleans, Trump told farmers the federal protections for waterways and wetlands were "one of the most ridiculous" regulations.

"It was a total kill on you and other businesses," Trump said. He claimed farmers and builders alike wept in gratitude when he signed an executive order in 2017, as one of the first official acts of his presidency, directing a rewrite of the wetlands protections.

"We're going to keep federal regulators out of your stock tanks, your drainage ditches, your puddles and your ponds," Trump told the cheering farmers Monday.

Opponents contend Trump and his administration put farmers front and center as beneficiaries of the proposed rollback because of the strong regard Americans historically hold for farming.

"The administration understands good optics in surrounding themselves with farmers," said Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Surrounding themselves with folks that would represent the industries that actually benefit would not be as good an optic."

Backers "have been really happy to have farmers be the face of it," said Kenneth Kopocis, the Environmental Protection Agency's deputy assistant administrator for water under the Obama administration. But the building industry, oil and gas and others with lower profiles in the campaign "are going to be some of the big beneficiaries."

The more than 300-page financial analysis the administration released last month when it formally proposed the rollback appears to starkly quantify that disparity. Of 248,688 federal permits issued from 2011 to 2015 for work that would deposit dirt or other fill into protected wetlands, streams and shorelines, the federal government on average required home builders and other developers to do some kind of mitigation — pay to restore a wetland elsewhere, generally — an average of 990 times a year, nationwide, according to the government's analysis.

In all, other industries and agriculture obtained an average of 3,163 such wetlands permits with some kind of extra payment or other mitigation strings attached each year.

Farmers represented just eight of those on average in a year, according to the administration's figures.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the wetlands protections with the EPA, and the National Association of Home Builders confirmed Friday that developers and other industries, not farmers, have felt the biggest impact from the federal wetlands protections and would get most of the financial breaks under the rollback.

"The residential construction industry does pull more wetlands permits than farmers do," Liz Thompson, spokeswoman for the National Association of Home Builders, said in an email.

The Trump administration's pending rollback of wetlands protections "could be a benefit to builders who will see some relief in terms of cost and time. That said, builders will still be regulated and will still be the industry that pulls the largest number of 404 permits which are very costly," Thompson wrote, referring to the section of the Clean Water Act dealing with the regulatory enforcement and permits.

The administration's proposal greatly narrows what kind of wetlands and streams fall under federal protection. If it is formally adopted after a public comment period, it would change how the federal government enforces the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act and scale back a 2015 Obama administration rule on what waterways are protected. Environmental groups say millions of miles of streams and wetlands would lose protection.

Trump signed an order in February 2017 directing the rollback. With farmers as well as homebuilders by his side, Trump called the waterways protections then in force a "massive power grab" targeting "nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer's land."

The farm bloc has been one of the most loyal to Trump, despite farmers' complaints that the administration has favored oil and gas producers over corn ethanol farmers, and their worries over a trade war with China.

Acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler surrounded himself with farm bureau representatives and farm-state Congress members in signing the rollback proposal last month.

In Tennessee, Wheeler, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and farm industry leaders from Washington stood in front of tractors and U.S. flags last month to urge farmers to campaign for the rollback.

"The EPA has done its job. Now all of us in this room have to help to get this over the finish line," Zippy Duvall, head of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told the Tennessee farm crowd then.

Farmers who support the rollback call the federal protections of wetlands and creeks a burden, and they insist farmers know best how to protect their property.

Environmental groups, public-health organizations and others say it's impossible to keep the country's downstream lakes, rivers and water supplies clean unless upstream waters are also regulated federally. The targeted regulations also protect wildlife and their habitats.

The Clean Water Act permits deal with work that would dump dirt or fill into a wetland or waterway. Breaks for farmers long have been written into the law, so that a farmer doesn't need permits for ordinary ongoing farming that, for instance, sends some soil running off into a wetland.

The American Farm Bureau Federation — one of the most active promoters of the scaling back of the Clean Water Act's reach — says the 2015 Obama version of the rule could force farmers to pursue costly wetlands permits and mitigation for routine plowing and other farm work.

"It's just really a nightmare for farmers to have to navigate," said Don Parrish, the senior director of regulatory relations at the agriculture trade group. "It can cost them the use of the land, generally they have to stop using their land" if they run afoul of it.

"If you could see me, I'd be laughing" at that claim, Kopocis, the lead Obama water official behind the 2015 rule, said by phone Sunday. "Every single exemption or exclusion that agriculture had" was preserved in the Obama administration's 2015 work on the wetlands rule, he said.

In an email, Cindy Barger, an Army Corps of Engineers official involved in the proposed regulatory change, confirmed that the rules targeted by the Trump administration had kept the regulatory relief for farmers.

Compared to other industries, as wetlands protections currently stand, "the agricultural industry has less economic exposure because of the permit exemptions," Barger said. The gain for farmers would be the Trump administration's attempt to streamline definition of protected wetlands, meaning farmers wouldn't have to consult experts to know if an area is protected, she said.

___

John Flesher contributed from Traverse City, Michigan.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Agriculture, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump declares he'll 'never back down' in shutdown fight
President Donald Trump on Monday rejected the suggestion that he temporarily reopen government while negotiations continue on his proposed border wall
9:13PM ( 19 minutes ago )
AG nominee sent memo on Mueller probe to Trump's lawyers
President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general sent White House lawyers a memo arguing the president couldn't have obstructed justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey
9:05PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Son sentenced for killing, dismembering mom in Hawaii
A man who admitted to killing and dismembering his mother in their Waikiki apartment has been sentenced to 30 years in prison
9:05PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Death penalty for Canadian escalates China-Canada tensions
A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death in a sudden retrial in a drug smuggling case that is likely to escalate tensions between the countries over the arrest of a top Chinese technology executive
8:35PM ( 58 minutes ago )
GOP Rep. King loses committee posts over racial remarks
Veteran Republican Rep. Steve King will be blocked from committee assignments for the next two years after remarks lamenting that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms
8:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Big winners in Trump rollback of wetlands rules? Developers
Builders and other developers stand to get the biggest financial and regulatory relief under a rollback of protections for wetlands
8:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Kidnapping suspect targeted girl after seeing her get on bus
Suspect in Wisconsin kidnapping decided to abduct girl after watching her get on school bus
7:16PM ( 2 hours ago )
No. of no-show airport security screeners soars in shutdown
The world's busiest airport reports that passengers were waiting more than an hour to get through each of its three checkpoints in the domestic terminal as screeners worked without pay
6:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump birth control coverage rules blocked nationwide
A federal judge in Philadelphia is imposing a nationwide injunction on new Trump administration rules that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control
6:27PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Democrats celebrate crop of new governors who took GOP seats
Democrats in seven states are celebrating capturing governor's offices previously held by Republicans
7:15PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump to congratulate Clemson for its perfect season
President Donald Trump is paying tribute to Clemson for winning the national championship with a White House ceremony Monday evening
6:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
Gunman gets 84-year term in Chicago honor student's killing
A judge has imposed an 84-year prison sentence on a Chicago man who fatally shot a 15-year-old honor student a week after she performed at President Barack Obama's 2013 inauguration festivities
6:48PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
India's mega Hindu festival begins under cloud of toxic air
India's mega Hindu festival begins under cloud of toxic air, a sign that government officials are struggling to grapple with the country's worsening air pollution
8:11PM ( 1 hour ago )
Sears' chairman stands at the center of fight for company
As Sears teeters on the brink of collapse, its chairman stands at the center of the fight to keep it alive
7:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
Feds to ease rules on drone flights over crowds and at night
Federal officials plan to ease restrictions on drone flights over crowds and at night
6:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Another sign of weakness in China weighs on US stocks
US stocks slip after China said its exports fell in December, but major indexes avoid the big losses they took in late 2018 when investors worried about the state of the global economy
4:25PM ( 5 hours ago )
Kidnapping suspect watched 13-year-old as she got on bus
Suspect in Wisconsin kidnapping decided to abduct girl after watching her get on school bus
4:14PM ( 5 hours ago )
Another sign of weakness in China sends US stocks lower
Global stock indexes are slightly lower after China said its exports fell in December, contributing to concerns its economy is getting weaker
3:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
EU OKs Poland's wild boar slaughter to fight swine disease
The European Union's executive body has supported Poland's massive killing of wild boar as a way of protecting farm pigs and meat production from the deadly African swine fever
11:05AM ( 3 days ago )
3 dead after commercial crabbing vessel capsizes off Oregon
A commercial fishing boat capsized in rough waters off the Oregon coast, killing three men aboard
4:39AM ( 4 days ago )
Routine food inspections halted by US government shutdown
FDA can't do routine food inspections because of partial federal shutdown
7:38PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Business - Agriculture
Facing massive liability, PG&E seeks bankruptcy protection
PG&E will file for bankruptcy protection amid potentially massive liabilities over deadly California wildfires
11:14AM ( 10 hours ago )
Tensions rise in Zimbabwe's capital after fuel price hikes
Protesters block roads in some parts in Zimbabwe's capital after the government more than doubled the price of gasoline
2:55AM ( 18 hours ago )
Asian shares decline as China reports slowdown in exports
Asian shares fall as China reports slowdown in exports, raising worries over weakening economy
11:37PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Trump declares he'll 'never back down' in shutdown fight
President Donald Trump on Monday rejected the suggestion that he temporarily reopen government while negotiations continue on his proposed border wall
9:13PM ( 19 minutes ago )
AG nominee sent memo on Mueller probe to Trump's lawyers
President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general sent White House lawyers a memo arguing the president couldn't have obstructed justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey
9:05PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Son sentenced for killing, dismembering mom in Hawaii
A man who admitted to killing and dismembering his mother in their Waikiki apartment has been sentenced to 30 years in prison
9:05PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Company known for deep cost-cutting offers to buy Gannett
A hedge fund-backed bid to buy Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today and several other major dailies, is renewing fears of consolidation, job losses and declining news coverage in the already battered newspaper industry
8:59PM ( 34 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump rejects short-term shutdown fix
President Donald Trump has rejected a short-term legislative fix for the partial government shutdown, declaring he will "never ever back down."
8:54PM ( 39 minutes ago )