Oklahoma Ranchers Affected By New Federal Clean Water Act Rules

Wednesday, September 2nd 2015, 11:05 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and small business owners say the federal government is overstepping its boundaries.

New rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency are aimed at keeping drinking water clean, but those who depend on the land to make a living said it will hurt their business.

One rancher is worried about how the new regulations will impact his livelihood.

Up until now, it has been relatively easy for ranchers to make changes to bodies of water on their land, like, for instance, a pond.

The state oversaw the program until a few days ago, but now the federal government has full control, which ranchers say is scary.

Taking care of hundreds of calves on a ranch near Ramona is how Jess Kane makes a living for his family, but ranching as he knows it is drastically changing.

"I do this because I love the land, I love being out here. The idea we would do anything to harm Oklahoma waterways is just crazy," he said.

New rules by the EPA clarify the scope of "waters of the United States" that are protected under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA says it'll protect 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands, which will safeguard drinking water for millions, but much of that water falls on the land of  ranchers, like Kane.

"This place right here in the river bottom like this would be right in the cross hairs of the water of the United States redefinition," he said.

His ranch backs up to the Caney River, and since it's in a floodplain, he won't be able to do much to his land without the federal government's approval.

"It's scary, darn scary,” he said. “Should be rightfully regulated by the states, federal government has no purpose here."

Kane says it places an excessive burden on him and many others.

As a fifth generation rancher, he thinks his family has done a fine job without the government's help.

"We can effectively manage this resource and some bureaucrats out of Washington decide they can unilaterally redefine the law to where they can tell us what to do," Kane said.

A court ruling has blocked the measure in 13 states, but not in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s state attorney general is suing the EPA over the rules in a separate lawsuit, but that hasn't stopped the regulations from going into effect.

Again, the EPA says the new regulations are meant to keep our water supply safe and clean.