EPA gets green light

IF the Environmental Protection Agency wasn't already on the radar of the agricultural community, it is now, with several recent activities reconfirming the dangerous road EPA could take regarding regulations.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Sept. 13 that the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL) established by EPA is not only legal but that EPA also has the right to oversee how states meet the water quality standards established under the TMDL plan.

Agricultural groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), had fought in the courts EPA's implementation of the "pollution diet" because it wrongly puts federal agency staff in charge of intensely local land use decisions.

The judge's discourse was troublesome in how it justified EPA's role in those decisions.

"Although nothing in the CWA (Clean Water Act) specifically authorizes EPA to take this holistic or watershed approach, it is equally true that nothing in the CWA prohibits such an approach," U.S. court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo said.

In laymen's terms, if Congress doesn't tell EPA what not to do, it is okay for the agency to do it.

"EPA gets to make rules up as they go along because Congress didn't tell them they couldn't," said Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory affairs at AFBF.

Parrish voiced deep reservations for the ruling.

AFBF must decide within 60 days whether it will appeal the latest decision, which has many of the likely attributes to come before the Supreme Court because of the broad implications it can have on farmers in watersheds across the country, Parrish added.

One of the other top-of-mind issues for farmers is how EPA will define navigable and regulate waters under CWA. Agricultural water bodies have typically been considered exempt, but the rule being circulated interagency has folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Transportation concerned about the expansiveness.

Parrish challenged agricultural members to have their voices heard and push EPA to regulate only what is aquatic in nature.

"This is huge. This is a land grab, is what it is," Parrish said.

If farmers aren't okay with having those areas where water exists following a rainfall, they need to contact members of Congress and the Administration.

Also last week, a House energy subcommittee failed to draw much attendance, or seemingly much attention, at a planned marathon climate change hearing on Sept. 18. Of 13 federal officials requested to testify, 11 declined, leaving just Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy participating.

Predictably, energy and power subcommittee leaders expressed disappointment at this turnout and the lack of information being provided on climate policy, which is a central feature of the Administration's energy policy.

Committee chairman emeritus Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas) criticized that neither McCarthy nor Moniz, nor the other 11 agencies, answered the straightforward questions contained in the committee's Aug. 6 letter.

Barton said, "The point I'm trying to make is that we're trying to have a good-faith effort here to have a real dialogue, but in order to have a dialogue, we have to have the facts, and we're being stonewalled, which means the American people (are) being stonewalled."

Volume:85 Issue:39

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