ALTHOUGH the campaign stumping was quiet on the environmental front, if President Barack Obama is true to his word, it means he isn't giving up on some of the top items on his environmental agenda.
Obama made a major push to address climate change at the start of his first term but backed off when Republicans took over the House in 2010.
In Obama's victory speech after the November election, he said, "We want to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality and that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
Vermont Law School president and dean Marc Mihaly said Obama's second term gives the President one last opportunity to make good on that pledge by stepping up efforts to control emissions of greenhouse gases, to scale up clean energy technologies and to secure passage of comprehensive climate legislation that helps communities adapt to more frequent extreme weather events while building a more sustainable low-carbon economy.
Last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson officially announced that she plans to step down from her post following the President's "State of the Union" address in January.
The top EPA post normally does not catch the attention of the agricultural community. However, Jackson's name has been synonymous with increased government regulatory oversight ranging from pesticides to dust to issuing a final determination on the renewable fuel standard waiver.
No successor has been named, although EPA deputy administrator Robert Perciasepe is expected to take over at least temporarily.
Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the agriculture industry is "bracing for an onslaught of additional new environmental regulations" in 2013.
Earlier in December, Jackson did make good on her word that the agency would not pursue more stringent dust standards for farms (Feedstuffs, Dec. 24), although lawmakers are still seeking a legislative commitment over just the assurances from the agency.
Parrish added that farmers and ranchers in general are preparing for a lot of "what if" scenarios that could come in the form of new regulations, but it will be a wait-and-see process, including for how the agency plans to regulate U.S. waters and pesticides.
Second on the Vermont Law "Top 10 Environmental Watch List 2013" is a district court circuit upholding EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to address climate change. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and attempts by the Administration to bring climate change issues to the forefront, this decision could be pivotal in the years ahead.
Several court cases have validated EPA's use of the Clean Air Act to address climate change. The fear is that EPA will use that authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and may decide its Clean Air Act authority is the "tool of choice for addressing gas emissions at a national level," the Vermont Law School noted.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress to repeal EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. So far, they have not gained any traction in the Senate.
Many environmentalists and court challenges also seek to control runoff, forcing the Administration to take action. EPA did recently allow Florida to set its own numeric nutrient standards for runoff, and other states are trying to pursue their own actions to allow state-set, rather than EPA-driven, rules (Feedstuffs, Dec. 17).
The National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) noted recently that the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) rule is back in the environmental news circuit.
EPA announced in October another round of comments on the Clean Water Act regulation for CAFOs. The request for comments is in response to requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires the issuing agency to conduct a review of the effects of a regulation that's certified to have a substantial impact on small businesses within 10 years of the regulation's publication.
NCBA said EPA may use the review to determine whether the regulation should be continued without change, amended or rescinded.
It's estimated that 40% of all CAFOs fall under the small entity provision, according to EPA. Even though EPA said in its announcement that it is looking for comments on "whether there is a 'continued need' for regulations on CAFOs" and "the extent to which the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other federal, state or local government regulations," it is unlikely that EPA will ease the burden of the CAFO rule on farmers and ranchers, NCBA said.
Originally set to close on Dec. 31, the comment period will likely be extended until March 1.