Friday, July 18, 2014

Time to send a clear message to EPA

Jackie McClaskey, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture | Updated: 07/17/2014

Water in Kansas is a precious resource. Kansans are keenly aware of the importance of protecting the soil, water, air and other natural resources found in our great state.

Without water, including clean drinking water, our major industries including agriculture, and the wellbeing of Kansans is at stake. Respect for the land and the bounty it offers; these are principles that every Kansan holds dear.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recognizes the importance of Kansas water supplies and has called for the development of a 50-year Vision for Water in Kansas. However, the Federal Government believes it knows better. The heavy-handed overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency continues to threaten the livelihood and rights of Kansans. Kansas business owners, industry leaders and farm and ranch families will all be affected if the proposed rule addressing the Clean Water Act is pushed through. The latest media blitz in the Midwest to convince Kansans that the rule is benign and is in their best interest is a slap in the face. The rule, while promoted as reducing EPA oversight and clarifying the issue at hand, does nothing to improve the lives of Kansans.

The visit by U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the Midwest was part of a campaign that attempts to reduce participation in the comment process by spreading misinformation and glossing over the damaging intrusion into effective practices on our farm and ranch operations. This misguided campaign, while calling for dialog, offers little in the way of getting to the real intentions of the EPA in this process. Indeed, McCarthy has referred to the concerns of Midwesterners as “ludicrous.”

This proposed rule is bad for Kansas. Contrary to public comments from EPA officials, it extends federal jurisdiction beyond that authorized in the Clean Water Act and creates the opportunity for federal intervention in upland practices. The EPA proposal would likely bring many additional ponds, puddles, ditches, and even dry land under federal regulation, ultimately requiring more permits for routine farming activities. Despite EPA statements, the agency narrowed statutory exemptions for agriculture under the CWA. These requirements will prevent expansions, conservation practice implementation, and other beneficial activities that provide jobs and water quality benefits for Kansas.

The EPA says it is not their intention to exert additional jurisdiction over these items, yet by reading the rule, we believe that either now or sometime in the future, the EPA can and will do these very things.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Water Office and the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism have and continue to be actively engaged in identifying and bringing to the EPA’s attention the negative ramifications of the proposed rule.

We will not be deterred by a media campaign that is clearly running counter to what is in the best interest of Kansas business owners, families and agriculture interests. We will continue to fight to protect the rights of Kansas landowners and businesses.

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