EPA Administrator McCarthy Speaks to Agriculture
SPEECH EXCERPTS from U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's July 10, 2014 speech on the Clean Water Act proposal that United States agricultural interest fear will broaden the 'navigable waters' definition leading to greater governmental regulation of farm ditches, etc.
Today, I’m here to talk about our Clean Water Act proposal, which was called for by the Supreme Court and by numerous state organizations, as well as numerous agriculture stakeholder groups. The aim of this proposal is clear: to clear up legal confusion and protect waters that are vital to our health, using sound science so that EPA can get its job done. It is crucial that we keep farmers and the ag industry as a whole doing what they do best: producing the food, fuel, and fiber that provide for our American way of life. The kinds of water bodies we’ll protect provide drinking water to 1 in 3 Americans.
We agree that people have a right to healthy land and clean water, so we have to make sure people understand that the practices we put in place are reasonable and consistently applied. That’s how we make sure everyone is playing by the same rules, and that everyone can fully work their farms and ranches with confidence and certainty. All of us rely on science and accurate facts.
Farmers need to know what to plant and when to plant it, and EPA needs to know how to protect our precious water resources for everyone to enjoy. So it’s great to be here to talk facts and roll up our sleeves to work together to benefit producers and public health.
Yesterday, we heard very clearly some of the concerns about our proposed rule. Let me clear up some of that: We heard fears that EPA is regulating groundwater. This is not true; groundwater regulations do and will fall under the purview of the states. EPA is not regulating all activities in floodplains, or every puddle, dry wash, and erosional feature. In fact, we’re doing just the opposite. If cattle cross a wet field – let them. That’s a normal farming practice, and all normal farming practices are still exempt. The bottom line is – if you didn’t need a permit before this proposed rule, you won’t need one when it’s finalized.
So let’s talk about the interpretive rule and the 56 conservation practices that are good for production and good for water quality. That rule seems to have generated lots of confusion. So, why did we want to list out those 56 practices? Those 56 are an attempt to clear the path for slam dunk conservation practices. We did not narrow exemptions; those 56 are a subset to the existing exemptions for normal farming, ranching, and silviculture. No one should have to think twice about taking advantage of these conservation practices.
Some mistakenly think that this means additional federal standards with which to comply, but that’s wrong. Conservation practice standards are not federal regulatory standards. They just provide a roadmap for producers to make sure they’re squeezing all they can out of their practice.
New exemptions are “self-implementing,” which means no one needs to notify or get approval from EPA or the Corps. There’s no need to double check with anyone at any time. I’m sure farmers agree that the best discussion on jurisdictional determinations is one that never needs to happen. We added 56 exemptions because we want to boost conservation without boosting bureaucracy. Is the interpretive rule the best way to do that? Let’s figure that out together. I am about outcomes, not process.