EPA nominee recognizes strains with ag community

Nominee for top EPA post Gina McCarthy questioned at Senate hearing on how she plans to handle ag and other environmental issues.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing Thursday on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During questioning from members, she recognized the strain between the agricultural community and EPA and stated she wanted to change that relationship.

McCarthy, who is the current assistant administrator at EPA, met with members of the committee during the days leading up to the hearing. During brief questioning from the members at the hearing, she said she would abide by the "highest standards the law allows" her to and also commented that she recognized the current deteriorating relationship between farmers and ranchers and the agency.

"The agency has bridges to build with the agriculture community," McCarthy told senators at the nomination hearing. She added she looks forward to working with members to change that relationship.

Specifically EPA has come under fire from the agricultural community about the agency's release of confidential information about animal feeding operations. EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe has called for a retraction of the information released to environmental groups and McCarthy said she is committed to continuing the path forward to get that information.

"I understand there is a great concern that the information went out and I will do everything I can to make sure that isn't repeated," she said.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) also asked about the EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule. As part of the continuing resolution, lawmakers postponed until Sept. 30 a regulation that would have required on-farm tanks and drums with oil-storage capacity to have spill-prevention dikes in place.

If implemented, the rule would have required that oil storage facilities with a capacity of over 1,320 gallons make structural improvements to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The plan would have required farmers to construct a containment facility, like a dike or a basin, which must retain 110% of the fuel in the container.

The agricultural industry is supporting legislation that would adjust the minimum capacity upward to 10,000 gallons while the aggregate level on a production facility would move to 42,000 gallons. Fisher asked if McCarthy would be supportive of that legislation and she responded she would be "more than happy to take a look at it." When asked if McCarthy was aware of any oil spills at the farm level, she responded that she was not aware of any.

 

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