It’s been a busy week for TSCRA government and public affairs staff. In Washington, a flurry of pre-holiday activity has brought good news with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the release of a new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition. In Texas, all eyes are on the legislature with the 2019 Texas Legislative Session set to start Jan. 8.
Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new WOTUS rule. The new rule would replace the controversial Obama administration version that drastically increased the scope of federal regulation of private lands. There is still a lot to review with respect to the new rule, but in a statement to the press, TSCRA president Bobby McKnight said, “we thank the EPA and Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler for fulfilling the administration’s pledge to rewrite the onerous Obama-era WOTUS law. Their commitment to creating a new rule that is easily interpreted by property owners and that limits federal intrusion on private property rights signals that the new proposal is moving in the right direction.”
Wednesday brought additional good news from Washington. Congress officially passed the 2018 Farm Bill. After months of negotiation and amid waning optimism, the conference committee hammered out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill and released their report Monday. The Senate moved surprisingly quick to pass the bill Tuesday, followed by the House Wednesday. It is now headed to President Trump for his signature, which is expected sometime next week. In TSCRA’s statement to the press, McKnight praised the passage and thanked House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, of Midland, for his work on the bill. He added, “the legislation retains many of the hard-fought provisions that were essential to cattle raisers, including authorization for a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank and enhancements to important conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.”
Thursday, TSCRA government affairs staff attended a Texas Water Development board meeting where they discussed their priorities for the 86th Texas Legislative Session. One highlight was the approval of more than $162 million in assistance for water and wastewater systems projects, with more than $57 designated for rural water projects.