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State to join suit against EPA’s water rule

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By Max Bomber

Indiana will join a multistate lawsuit against the federal government, accusing the EPA of overreach in its water rule.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Monday that his office will soon join the more than 12 state suit filed June 30 against the Environmental Protection Agency, which challenges as unconstitutional a new definition of streams, creeks, ponds and wetlands as the “waters of the United States.”

The agency’s new Clean Water Act rules would be costly to farmers and could harm Indiana’s agricultural economy, Zoeller said.

Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement Monday that he’s “pleased” Indiana will join the suit.

“Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has stretched beyond its authority under federal law, and they must be held accountable,” Pence said. “They cannot be allowed to continue to expand federal authority over more aspects of Hoosiers’ lives.”

However, Kim Ferraro, water and agriculture policy director and senior staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, called the lawsuit “politically motivated” and said it “spends taxpayers’ dollars on needless litigation.”

She said the EPA proposal clarifies existing rules about what is considered a waterway for regulation.

“The idea that this overreaches the EPA’s authority really is absurd.” Ferraro said. “What you see is that the Pence administration – along with other Republicans – they are very anti-environment and don’t like the Obama administration addressing very critical issues.”

The law seeks to expand the scope of EPA’s authority and redefine small non-navigable bodies of water, including ponds, drainage ditches and intermittent streams that appear only with heavy rain. The small bodies of water and wetlands have been under state, not federal, control, according to the attorney general’s office. The new rule penalizes agricultural operations that discharge any water or wastewater – requiring them to obtain expensive federal permits or face civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for the potential water runoff.

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general in Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin filed the lawsuit on behalf of their states alleging the “Waters of the United States” definition exceeds the EPA’s authority and violates the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Zoeller said his office, representing the state of Indiana, will join the amended complaint that will be filed soon.

Zoeller said he has heard from Hoosier members of the agricultural community and state agency clients all of whom have urged Indiana to join the multistate challenge as co-plaintiff.

Max Bomber is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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