Cotton Groups Comment on WOTUS
The NCC joined 21 other producer interest organizations in responding to a request from the EPA and the Department of the Army (‘‘the agencies’’) on their proposal to add an applicability date to the ‘‘Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’’’ (the ‘‘2015 Rule’’ or "WOTUS") of two years from the date of final action on this proposal.
December 13, 2017
Re: Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2017–0644. Definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States’’—Addition of an Applicability Date to 2015 Clean Water Rule
The National Cotton Council (NCC) is the central organization of the United States cotton industry. Its members include producers, ginners, cottonseed processors and merchandizers, merchants, cooperatives, warehousers and textile manufacturers. A majority of the industry is concentrated in 17 cotton-producing states stretching from California to Virginia. U.S. cotton producers cultivate between 9 and 12 million acres of cotton with production averaging 12 to 18 million 480-lb bales annually. The downstream manufacturers of cotton apparel and home furnishings are located in virtually every state. Farms and businesses directly involved in the production, distribution and processing of cotton employ more than 125,000 workers and produce direct business revenue of more than $21 billion. Annual cotton production is valued at more than $5.5 billion at the farm gate, the point at which the producer markets the crop. Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 280,000 workers with economic activity of almost $100 billion. In addition to the cotton fiber, cottonseed products are used for livestock feed and cottonseed oil is used as an ingredient in food products as well as being a premium cooking oil.
The undersigned organizations representing the U.S. cotton industry appreciate the opportunity to comment on this issue. We consider clarity in compliance with the provisions of the Clean Water Act to be of the utmost importance to our industry and agriculture as a whole.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army (‘‘the agencies’’) are proposing to add an applicability date to the ‘‘Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’’’ (the ‘‘2015 Rule’’ or "WOTUS") to two years from the date of final action on this proposal. While the effective date of the 2015 Rule was established by a document published by the agencies in the Federal Register (80 FR 37054, June 29, 2015), the Code of Federal Regulations text does not include an applicability date; therefore, the agencies are proposing to amend the text of the Code of Federal Regulations to add a new applicability date.
This addition of an applicability date will have the added benefit of reducing potential confusion resulting from an upcoming Supreme Court decision. On October 9, 2015, the Sixth Circuit stayed the 2015 Rule nationwide pending further action of the court, but the Supreme Court is currently reviewing the question of whether the court of appeals has original jurisdiction to review challenges to the 2015 Rule. If the Supreme Court rules that the court of appeals does NOT have jurisdiction, then some states would need to implement WOTUS while other states (under a stay from a North Dakota court) would not. With this proposed rule, the agencies intend to maintain the status quo by proposing to add an applicability date to the 2015 Rule and thus provide continuity and regulatory certainty for regulated entities, the States and Tribes, agency staff, and the public while the agencies continue to work to consider possible revisions to the 2015 Rule.
The undersigned organizations support this decision to maintain the status quo and also support the decision of the agencies to revise the 2015 rule. Previous comments submitted to the various dockets for this rule by the National Cotton Council detail reasons for the serious revisions needed to WOTUS, and this proposal to maintain the status quo until such revisions are made is therefore necessary to maintain clarity for the stakeholders.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this proposal. If you have any questions, please contact Steve Hensley of the National Cotton Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Cotton Council
Agricultural Council of Arkansas
Alabama Cotton Commission
Arizona Cotton Growers Association
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
Blackland Cotton and Grain Producers Association
California Cotton Growers and Ginners
Cotton Producers of Missouri
Georgia Cotton Commission
Louisiana Cotton and Grain Association
Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
New Mexico Pecos Valley Farmers Association
North Carolina Cotton Producers Association
Oklahoma Cotton Council
Plains Cotton Growers Association
Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association
South Carolina Cotton Board
South Texas Cotton and Grain Association
Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association
Southern Cotton Growers Association
Virginia Cotton Growers Association