Better way for EPA

Better way for EPA

THIS Administration has one of the most active regulatory and enforcement regimes, which has caused a lot of concern, especially with farmers.

"EPA is out of control," Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) said at his March 1 Farm Forum.

Boehner called the current regulatory regime "combative, coercive and expensive" and said he's a big believer that there's a better way to do this.

Other countries work in a more collaborative manner, cooperating on what is and isn't a problem as well as finding potential solutions to a problem. "At the end of the day, regulations are more practical, more enforceable and less expensive," Boehner said of this approach.

He noted that everybody wants clean water and clean air, but "the myriad of rules and regulations that come out of Washington and state (environmental departments) make it almost impossible to comply."

Some states have been able to take a more collaborative approach in reaching environmental goals.

Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, explained that some national environmental laws give states the opportunity to operate and implement standards.

However, he added that some federal standards often try to establish a one-size-fits-all program that doesn't give states flexibility in how to meet the goal.

Butler said states like Ohio have tried be as flexible as possible, as long as the end goal is reached. Meanwhile, other states have not stepped up to the plate to ensure that solutions offer local insight, instead waiting for top-down implementation.

Butler said there is a lot of collaboration between state and the federal EPA, but there's also a constant struggle. "Depending on the administration, there can be mission creep and a tendency for wanting to reinterpret agreements we have in place," he said.

The role of states in establishing environmental policy is at the center of a court case challenging the federal EPA's Clean Water Act authority to regulate runoff or total maximum daily load (TMDL) into the Chesapeake Bay.

Attorneys general from 21 states have filed a friend of the court action in support of the American Farm Bureau Federation's assertion that EPA is usurping states' authority over water and land use decisions within their borders. The Farm Bureau contends that EPA will try to set new TMDLs for nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in other watersheds.

The House has held two hearings on EPA overreach.

At a Feb. 5 hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) said, "Our Constitution requires a collaborative relationship, not a federal takeover. This is why we must listen to voices from the states. It's in everybody's best interest for agencies like the EPA to help support these state efforts, not hinder them."

At the hearing, Texas Farm Bureau president Kenneth Dierschke noted that among farmers, EPA's reputation may be at its lowest in history.

Dierschke noted the industry's concern regarding a leaked draft proposal on how EPA would define navigable waters. He also testified that effective environmental policies should balance scientific, economic, social and environmental outcomes.

"Just as the productivity of American agriculture is dependent on sound science to feed and clothe the nation, sound science — not politicized science — must be the foundation of the nation's environmental policy," Dierschke said.

Volume:86 Issue:10

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