WASHINGTON (CN) – One of the country’s largest sugar growers is fighting a new federal rule designed to protect and restore subtropical wetlands in Florida. U.S. Sugar Corp. and the American Farm Bureau Federation claim that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ plan to regulate them under the Clean Water Act is illegal because the Corps “failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision” and “did not follow any of the requirements for an agency rulemaking.”
Under the 2009 standard, the company’s sugar land would be subject to federal environmental laws and “where applicable provide compensatory mitigation for impacts to wetlands.”
U.S. Sugar owns 187,000 acres in Florida, more than 100,000 acres of it in the Everglades, southeast of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County.
The Clinton administration exempted the plaintiffs’ land from the Clean Water Act in 1993, allowing them to use land “converted” from wetlands before 1985. The amendment would make those areas federal waters.
“Loss of the exclusion requires farmers and others to get a permit, lowers the value of their land, and delays the intended use of the land by the farmer or others,” the complaint states.
“Moreover, the land is devalued in the eyes of institutions that place value on the land for security purposes, such as banks, and for those farmers who may want to sell their property for development. Thus, the … new rule constricts a farmer’s ability to use his land for uses other than what the Corps deems to be ‘agricultural use.'”
U.S. Sugar claims that acquiring new permits is “costly, and fraught with uncertainty” and prevents lessees from mining.
“U.S. Sugar has already lost revenue because no mined aggregate materials have been sold, and, under the terms of the lease, no aggregate sales means no lease payments or royalties to U.S. Sugar,” the complaint states.
Represented by Karma Brown with Hunton & William, U.S. Sugar want the amendment and its enforcement enjoined.