Podcast: Congressman Duarte on the EPA’s “WOTUS” Regulations

Date: March 01, 2023

Congressman Duarte shares his fight against WOTUS regulations as a small business owner and farmer

In the new episode of the Small Business Rundown, host Adam Temple was joined by U.S. Representative John Duarte of California’s 13th district, a small business owner and NFIB member. Their conversation focused on how the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulations have impacted Congressman Duarte as a small business owner and how a Congressional Review Act (CRA) could help.

Rep. Duarte’s family has farmed in California’s central valley for four generations. He has spent his life building his business, Duarte Nurseries, which has provided approximately 1,000 jobs and grows almonds, pistachios, grapes, and other produce.

“Where we’re pushing back against the expansive definition of Waters of the United States is that under this rule it could well be that 90-95% of America could be jurisdictional wetlands,” Rep. Duarte explained. “This would control any ability to respond to housing shortages, this would cause food shortages, this would stop progress in America and make almost every acre in America subject to onerous wetlands regulations and restrictions.”

His family has dealt with WOTUS regulations and was involved in a high-profile wetlands case against regulatory overreach but were fined without ever getting a hearing. Rep. Duarte planted wheat in a 450-acre wheatfield that contains pockets of vernal pools, which are seasonal wetlands that can occur in certain climates from winter to spring, ranging in size from 16 square feet to less than 1 acre.

The Army Corps of Engineers field agent issued a cease-and-desist order against Rep. Duarte’s farm, claiming he was tilling 30 inches deep but refusing his offers to go and look at the land, which was only tilled up to 7 inches deep, consistent with wheat farming. He went back and forth fighting the Army Corps in court so he could continue farming, but ultimately had to settle the case.

Rep. Duarte also discussed the process of compliance and costs involved in getting the correct permits and Congressional efforts to repeal the new WOTUS rule. Among these efforts is the CRA, which allows Congress opportunities to disapprove of burdensome regulations, in cases where agencies do not regulate consistently with Congressional intent.

The fight to end overreaching WOTUS regulations is also underway in the courts. NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center continues to fight on behalf of small businesses against WOTUS regulations. Legal Center Executive Director Elizabeth Milito joined the podcast as well to share more about NFIB’s efforts to repeal the new WOTUS rule.

“The Congressman’s story really demonstrates how absurd, frustrating, and exceedingly expensive it is for small business owners to deal with WOTUS issues,” Milito said. “The time and the expense that small business owners spend on reaching out to EPA and waiting to hear whether or not their land is subject to jurisdiction and whether or not they’re going to need to file and obtain one of these very expensive permits to develop or use their land is ridiculous.”

Hear more from Congressman Duarte and Milito about the problematic new WOTUS rule by listening to the full podcast and tell us about your concerns and personal experience with federal WOTUS issues in a survey.


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