Industry groups say memos released Monday by a congressional oversight committee show significant flaws with the Environmental Protection Agency's clean water rules, which appear to ignore input from a sister agency that said the regulations were legally vulnerable.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said internal memos released by the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee "reveal the Army Corps of Engineers, the primary regulator over Environmental Protection Agency's 'waters of the United States' rule, believes that the rule will not hold up in the courts and that it grossly misinterprets Corps data."
The memos are from Major General John Peabody, the Army Corps' deputy for civil and emergency management, on a draft final rule that was moving through the pre-publication review process at the White House in April. In the memos, Peabody summarizes the rule by saying its definition of Waters of the U.S. "contains several flaws."
Peabody warns that "if the rule is promulgated as final without correcting those flaws, it will be legally vulnerable, difficult to defend in court, arduous for the Corps to explain or justify, and challenging for the Corps to implement."
The Waters of the U.S. rule, now dubbed the Clean Water Rule by EPA, has been challenged by dozens of states and industry groups since being made final this summer.
They argue that the rule is an example of gross federal overreach in regulating state water resources. They also say that the rules would designate ditches and other similar water resources as waterways under the Clean Water Act, bringing a whole swath of new territories, ranchers and farmers under EPA enforcement actions.
The documents show that EPA is not ready to begin enforcement under "this flawed rule," said Philip Ellis, the beef association's president. The memos from the Army Corps "demonstrate why this rule should be withdrawn and rewritten with input from all stakeholders."
"The EPA snubbed concerns from the countryside, and now, these memos reveal they even disregarded concerns from the Army Corps," Ellis said. "The fact that other federal agencies' concerns were ignored is appalling, especially given the scope of this rulemaking."
The rules will go into effect Aug. 28. But given the information contained in the memos, Ellis is asking EPA to withdraw the regulations immediately.