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LEGISLATIVE COLUMN-Representative Myron Dossett: EPA’s Overreach in Kentucky May Hit Farming Hard

LEGISLATIVE COLUMN-Representative Myron Dossett: EPA’s Overreach in Kentucky May Hit Farming Hard

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LEGISLATIVE COLUMN-Representative Myron Dossett: EPA’s Overreach in Kentucky May Hit Farming Hard

FRANKFORT, Ky. (October 28, 2014) – We’ve all heard about the overreach of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and many of it have experienced firsthand. The ever-tightening EPA regulations targeting the coal industry have played a significant role in the downturn of Kentucky’s industry, leading to layoffs and shutdowns in the eastern and western parts of the Commonwealth. But the EPA may not be finished in Kentucky; now they are focusing on another signature part of our economic: agriculture.

A proposed regulatory change made by the agency in April could drastically redefine what is commonly known as ‘Waters of the United States’ as it relates to the country’s navigable waterways. The EPA along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pursuing the change as a means by which to extend their authority under the Clean Water Act. This is not the first time in recent history the EPA has sought to expand the Clean Water Act in order to gain oversight to waters currently under state control, but this latest attempt could drastically impact Kentucky’s farming community.

First, it would require farmers to seek what are known as 404 permits from the EPA. Given how the EPA has impacted Kentucky’s coal industry by delaying and denying 404 permits for proposed mining operations, these same actions may place an undue and undeserved economic roadblock to our agricultural industry by requiring permits for simple farming activities like fertilizing crops, plants, or using pesticides.

Second, based on the rule’s failure to define what would be considered ‘normal farming operations’ it could leave Kentucky farmers open to frivolous lawsuits by environmental activists who want to limit agriculture production, again potentially placing our agricultural industry in the same dire straits as coal in Kentucky.

Worst yet the proposed rule change would place isolated ponds on farms, small landscape pools, and even standing puddles of water under provisions of the Clean Water Act. That would allow the EPA along with the Corps of Engineers the means to test water in puddles on farmland, and if found not to meet standards, cost our small farmers thousands of dollars either in fines or required to purchase chemicals the EPA deems as necessary to meet their regulations.

Our Commonwealth has around 92,000 miles of streams and a majority of them traverse the more than 1,000 miles of what is currently considered navigable waterway. This decision by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers means these streams will act like fingers, allowing the federal government to reach into areas currently managed by the Kentucky Division of Water and institute their own rules.

We simply cannot allow these new rules to go into place. Recently members of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture sent a letter Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the EPA, urging the rule either be withdrawn or amended to protect Kentucky farmers. The letter is part of more than 200,000 comments sent to the EPA opposing the new rule.

If you are concerned about the future of agriculture in Kentucky, based on the negative impact of the EPA’s proposed rule, I encourage you to submit your comments via the internet at www.reguations.gov, via e-mail at mailto:ow-docket@epa.gov (include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line), or by mailing a letter of your comments, including three copies, to WaterDocket, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No.EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880. The deadline to submit comments is Friday, November 14th.

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