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Braun: Federal water protections too strict for farmers

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Federal water protections go too far in regulating pollution from farm waste, and simplifying the rules would help farmers, Sen. Mike Braun said Tuesday before speaking at Wabash College.

Braun is co-sponsoring legislation to write the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the Waters of America Act into law, seeking to eliminate federal oversight of certain waterways.

“WOTUS is an example of where good intentions got out of hand,” Braun said in an interview.

The Obama-era rule, implemented in 2015, defined all tributaries with signs of flowing water as a federally regulated waterway. Last year, the Trump administration proposed removing protections for wetlands nationally unless they are connected to another federally protected waterway, and for streams, creeks, washes and ditches that run only during rains or snow melt.

The Define WOTUS Act would clarify what bodies of water fall under the Clean Water Act. Braun said the existing rules cause “undue regulations on farmers who already are really good stewards of the land, generally.”

Environmental advocates say the bill would further gut federal water protections and force communities to pay for repairing contaminated waterways and destroyed wetlands.

Braun has also introduced legislation that would require warning labels on prescription opioid bottles and bolstering training for opioid prescribers. He praised state efforts like Indiana’s law limiting opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply.

“There’s an issue where I think the solutions would be better crafted at the local and state level. That’s already happening,” Braun said.

Braun’s visit was part of a statewide “solutions” tour promoting topics on his legislative agenda. He was greeted by members of Humans United for Equality’s Immigrant Allies Committee calling on Braun to oppose the Trump administration’s immigration policies, namely the separation of families at the border.

“Even though officially this policy has ended, there are reports that upwards of 40 families are separated each week at the U.S. border,” committee member Agata Szczeszak-Brewer said, joining about 10 other protesters outside the college’s Fine Arts Center. “And so we want Sen. Braun to investigate the story, and if there indeed are still family separations at the border to take swift action to stop them and to reunite the families.”

As Braun spoke in Salter Hall, the group sat quietly in the audience wearing thermal blankets like ones given to children in border facilities.

Braun has called for doubling the levels of legal immigration into the United States.

“The economy needs it across the spectrum,” he said in the interview. “And anyone coming here — I don’t question their motives, they’re generally trying to escape something — but when drug cartels get involved to where they … end up making money on [migrants], where you don’t have the capacity in place that would take resources to allow for more legal immigration, I don’t think the alternative is illegal immigration,” he said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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