Billings Gazette: Secret EPA campaign to promote water law angers Montana ag interests

Montana farm and ranch groups are angry at the Environmental Protection Agency, which was caught running a secret propaganda campaign to sway public opinion about new clean water rules affecting agriculture.

But Montana already has laws that protect public water, said Errol Rice, of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. Federal regulations on top of those that ranchers already follow will make it hard to tell who has jurisdiction, he said.

Fly over the dry Montana plains, and it’s easy to see why the rule matters so much to people with livestock. Stock ponds are spread a mile or so apart on the eastern plain from Billings to Sidney, so range animals will have something to drink.

What’s more telling, Youngberg said, are the number of seasonal channels that show up on Google Earth. If they carry water for even part of the year, those channels come under the EPA’s new water rule, he said.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said he would support any measure to curb the EPA’s clean water rule. He said the EPA’s covert propaganda campaign proved the agency would do anything to get the rule enacted.

“The GAO report confirms what Montanans have long known: President (Barack) Obama and the EPA will do anything to move forward their reckless, job-killing agenda — even if it means breaking the law,” Daines said. “The EPA’s violations bring into serious question the legitimacy of the agency’s rule-making process and its attempts to move forward other devastating regulations, including recent rules on coal-fired power plants.”