Bowling Green- Politicians still examining new EPA rule

By Katie Brandenburg, Bowling Green Daily News–  Elected officials and candidates for Kentucky commissioner of agriculture are still reviewing a rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, though several are concerned about the impact the rule might have on farmers and businesses.

The EPA issued the final Clean Water rule last week, defining the scope of the “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act.

The rule defines and protects tributaries that impact health of downstream waters, according to a fact sheet published by the EPA. The rule states that a tributary has to show features of flowing water, such as a bed, bank and high water mark to be protected.

It also protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries, according to the fact sheet. It limits the ditches protected under the rule to those that function as a stream, according to the fact sheet.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said in a statement that EPA has a long history of “crippling and complex regulations.

“The latest is the Clean Water rule, which is nearly 300 pages long,” he said in the statement. “While I am still reviewing this rule, it is abundantly clear that the comments were stacked by political friends of the administration – not the farmers, business owners and local communities that will be directly impacted. The House voted in bipartisan fashion on H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would require the EPA pull the regulation and instead work directly with stakeholders in our states to develop a more realistic set of guidelines. This is the path the government should be taking – not one based on politics.”

The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement saying McConnell is also still reviewing the rule.

“However, he has heard from Kentuckians in the agriculture community, coal industry, and manufacturing that any attempt to expand federal power over waters would be detrimental to the economy by limiting the ability of landowners to make decisions about their property, inviting litigation, threatening jobs and ultimately impacting state and local governments’ abilities to make decisions regarding economic development,” it states.

Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, said in a news release that the regulations are bad for Kentucky farmers, coal miners, contractors and “essentially every other job creating industry in our state.”

Quarles is the Republican nominee for commissioner of agriculture and will face Democratic nominee Jean-Marie Lawson Spann in the November General Election.

“Sadly, this is just the latest in a series of unprecedented power grabs by Obama’s EPA, an agency with a job killing track record in Kentucky,” he said in the news release. “This out of control, out of touch federal over-reach would put bureaucrats on our family farms. Enough is enough. As the next conservative agriculture commissioner, I will push back against and fight Obama’s runaway regulators.”

In an interview last week, Quarles said if he is elected as commissioner of agriculture, he will aggressively fight EPA regulations.

“This is an agency with a track record of killing family farms,” he said.

He said he believes the new rules go beyond the general intent of the law and described it as a “power grab” on farming practices, and noted that the regulations will also impact industries such as mining and construction.

Spann said in a news release that she supports efforts to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water.

“Clean, safe water is one of the most valuable renewable resources that we have on earth,” she said in the statement. “However, before the EPA and the Corp of Engineers target anyone, they need to identify who exactly is polluting our water. Our Kentucky Farmers are the best conservationists in the world. They live and work on their family farms and they are all committed to clean and safe water as it is critical to their businesses and their families are drinking that water daily.”

Spann notes in the statement that material published by the EPA about the new rules states the rules don’t restrict inputs such as fertilizer beyond what is already regulated and that there are exclusions for farmers and agriculture.

She said in the news release that she supports a plan from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board to hire the United States Geological Survey Group to test tributaries as water comes into Kentucky, as it flows through Kentucky and as it is leaving Kentucky to identify “bad actors.”

“Based on these tests, as your next Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, I will fight for the rights of our Kentucky Farmers and will not hesitate to take whatever action is required to support and protect our Kentucky Family Farms,” she said in the news release.

Spann said in the news release that she is disappointed some politicians have used the issue as a fundraising tool.

“Using this issue to frighten our Kentucky Farm Families when there are so many things that can be done to make sure that the EPA and the Corp of Engineers do not overreach onto the property rights of our Kentucky Farmers simply to attempt some political gain or to fundraise is simply wrong,” the news release states.