Thursday, July 10, 2014

EPA head visits Missouri to explain proposed changes in water regulations; farmers are riled up

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is in Missouri today attempting to explain to agriculture and other industries a much-maligned EPA proposal to simplify federal water laws, Chris Adams reports for McClatchy Newspapers. The problem is that some see the proposed rules as expanding EPA's jurisdiction, a claim the agency denies. But the 88-page document "clarifies that the Clean Water Act protects 'most seasonal and rain-dependent streams' as well as 'wetlands near rivers and streams' and other types of waterways."

Read more here:

Earlier this week McCarthy "held a conference call with reporters to address what she called 'a growing list of misunderstandings that have been floating around' about the rule," Adams writes. McCarthy told reporters, “Hopefully, it’s an opportunity for me to set the record straight, to explain that while this is not about restricting farmers, it’s about protecting downstream water quality for all of us and doing it in a way that doesn’t get in the way of American agriculture . . . while there are legitimate concerns, we’re hearing some concerns that really are—to put frankly—they’re ludicrous.”

Despite McCarthy's claims, the American Farm Bureau Federation has said EPA needs to "ditch the rule,” Adams writes. "Other farm groups and associations involved with land use have pushed back as well, saying that the proposed rule is too broad and will give the EPA far more control over agricultural and other lands than it now has." Farm Bureau believes that "under the proposed rule, nearly every drop of water that falls would be regulated by the federal government."

Farm Bureau said the rule would "include smaller waters and even some dry land [and] as a result, permit requirements that apply to navigable waters would also apply to ditches, small ponds and even depressions in fields and pastures that are only wet when there is heavy rain." Don Parrish, Farm Bureau's senior director of regulatory affairs, says McCarthy's "public statements don’t match up with what the rule itself says," Adams writes. Parrish told Adams, “EPA may say ‘We don’t intend for that to happen,’ but I can’t take that to court. The words differ in black and white from what she is saying. The words she says to the press will not be what stands up in court.” (Read more)

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