Nebraska Farm Bureau has identified 10 key regulations the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should modify or repeal. The list was compiled and shared with the agency as part of a public comment request from the EPA seeking feedback on where regulatory changes are needed.
“For the past eight years, our nation’s food producers have endured a near constant onslaught of new regulations and attempts to use the federal regulatory process to further the objectives of both environmental and animal rights extremists. The leaders in the new administration, however, continue to demonstrate they want feedback from those who must comply with the regulations. It’s refreshing to work with an administration that follows the direction of Congress and is committed to common sense solutions that don’t needlessly increase costs and red tape for our members,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
The list of 10 regulations Nebraska Farm Bureau recommended for modification or repeal include:
- 1. EPA’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule. The measure grants the EPA broad sweeping authorities to regulate waterways and land management practices on private property. Farm Bureau recommended the agency repeal the existing rule and restart the process in a separate rulemaking to ensure it adheres to the EPA’s authority granted under the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court rulings.
- 2. EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Rule. The rule originally created regulations to prevent spills at oil refineries, but the EPA modified the measure to apply new regulations to prevent spills for on-farm fuel storage. The measure brought with it significant costs in engineering design and enhanced requirements for fuel storage, despite there being no history of spill issues on farms. Farm Bureau recommended SPCC regulations for farms be repealed.
- 3. CERCLA/EPCRA Regulations – The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was originally aimed at helping cleanup sites contaminated with hazardous waste and assign liability for cleanup, while the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was designed to help communities plan for chemical emergencies. Due to a recent court ruling, farmers will be required in 2017 to calculate and report emissions from the storage of livestock manure to be used as fertilizer on farm fields under CERCLA/EPCRA rules. Farm Bureau recommended EPA take regulatory action to clarify manure for use as fertilizer is not a “hazardous waste” subject to CERCLA/EPCRA regulations.
- 4. Worker Protection Standards (WPS) Rule. EPA regulations currently allow individuals with a designated status to gain access to a farmer’s proprietary records related to pesticide use. The rules provide no restrictions on the sharing of the information, nor does it provide protection for farmers from fraudulent claims about pesticide use. The EPA adopted the measure despite any demonstration of how the rule improves work safety, yet it exposes farmers to additional paperwork and legal liability. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA repeal this and related provisions of the WPS.
- 5. Clean Water Act “Normal Farming Practices.” Congress established that normal farming practices are exempt from the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps 404 “dredge and fill” permit requirements. The EPA and the Corps have continually narrowed the definition of farming practices exempt from permit requirements. As a result, plowing of farm fields without permits have led to enforcement actions against farmers. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA the and the Corps undertake rulemaking to re-establish the broader exemptions for normal farming practices.
- 6. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Originally TMDLs were designed to limit pollutant loads into waterways, however, the EPA has used informal interpretations of the Clean Water Act to blur the line of authority between federal and state governments, robbing states of the ability to establish plans to meet state water quality standards. The federal overreach unlawfully puts the EPA in a positon to regulate farming practices. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA revise its TMDLs regulations to clarify that state’s, not the EPA, have the ability to manage water quality within their borders.
- 7. Prior Converted Cropland. In 1993, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted a regulation that any wetland converted to farmland before 1985 would not be designated as “Waters of the U.S.” subject to federal EPA/Corps regulations moving forward. In 2005, the Army Corps changed the rule stating that wetlands previously converted to farmlands could be regulated if the ground was put into a non-agriculture use. Despite a court ruling finding the Corps rule change was illegal, the Corps continues to re-regulate prior converted cropland. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA adopt regulation to recognize the original 1993 protection of converted cropland from Clean Water Act regulations.
- 8. Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation. The designation of wetlands on farm ground brings significant regulatory requirements and restrictions for land use. The Army Corps of Engineers was directed by Congress in 1993 to develop, with public input, a final manual on wetland designations, yet the agency has failed to do so allowing them significant latitude in wetland designations. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA not use the Corps wetland designations for regulatory purposes until the Corps finalizes a wetland designation manual through the rigors and transparency of the public notice and comment process.
- 9. Revisions to State Administered EPA Permits. States, like Nebraska, often take on the responsibility of issuing federal permits on the EPA’s behalf. Because states often have limited staff, they can and do establish a process to administratively continue existing permits versus reissuing new permits upon expiration. This saves the state and the permit holder time and money. The EPA is now proposing to give itself the power to object to this process, eliminating these benefits. Farm Bureau recommended the EPA withdraw its proposal to intervene in states’ ability to administratively continue permits.
- 10. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Course Particulate Matter. These regulations deal with emissions into the air known as course particulate matter. The current definition of course particulate matter is overly broad and doesn’t account for naturally occurring sources of particulate matter such as dust on farms. Farm Bureau recommended EPA reexamine these regulations to ensure agriculture operations aren’t pulled in under NAAQS regulations based on naturally occurring emissions like dust on farms.
“We appreciate the administration’s willingness to examine these regulations. Farmers and ranchers are true environmental stewards and are committed to taking care of land and water resources that provide for them and for future generations. There is a time and place for environmental regulations, but they must be based on common sense and not founded in expanding regulatory power for a federal agency which was the basis of many of the regulations introduced under the previous administration,” said Nelson.
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