Administrator Lisa P. Jackson says EPA’s work and its impact on agriculture has been “mischaracterized” and that myths about the agency’s aims are preventing it from addressing the nation’s environmental problems.
Jackson, testifying before the full House Agriculture Committee yesterday, identified five areas where she said “myths” have proven to be a hindrance to her agency fulfilling its mission to protect the nation’s air and water.
The committee passed legislation on March 9 that would eliminate the requirement for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit for pesticides approved for use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Committee members said the requirement would have negative economic consequences.
The hearing was convened by Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, but Democrats on the committee have also criticized the agency for being overzealous in its regulation of farming and farming practices.
Jackson did not address the NPDES permitting issue, which EPA is seeking a delay in implementing from the federal courts. But she did talk about five other examples that have embroiled the agency in controversy:
Myth No. 1 — EPA intends to regulate the emissions from cows — what is commonly referred to as a cow tax. “This myth was started in 2008 by a lobbyist and —quickly de-bunked by the non-partisan, independent group fact-check.org it — but it still lives on. The truth is EPA is proposing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a responsible, careful manner and we have even exempted agricultural sources from regulation.”
Myth No. 2 — EPA is attempting to expand regulation of dust from farms. “We have no plans to do so, but let me be clear, the Clean Air Act passed by Congress mandates that the agency routinely review the science of various pollutants, including particulate matter, which is directly responsible for heart attacks and premature deaths,” she said. “EPA’s independent science panel is currently reviewing that science, and at my direction EPA staff is conducting meetings to engage with and listen to farmers and ranchers well before we even propose any rule.”
Myth No. 3 — Spray drift. “While no one supports pesticides wafting into our schools and communities, EPA does not support a ‘no-spray drift policy.’ EPA has been on the record numerous times saying this, but the incorrect belief that EPA desires to regulate all spray drift persists.”
Myth No. 4 — The false notion that EPA is planning on mandating federal numeric nutrient limits on various states. “Again, let me be clear: EPA is not working on any federal numeric nutrient limits. We will soon be releasing a framework memo to our regional offices that makes it clear that addressing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution — which is a major problem — is best addressed by the states, through numerous tools, including proven conservation practices.” (She did say the case of Florida is unique. The Bush administration made a determination that federal numeric nutrient standards were necessary in Florida, requiring EPA to develop such standards.)
Myth No. 5 — EPA intends to treat spilled milk in the same way as spilled oil. “This is simply incorrect. Rather, EPA has proposed, and is on the verge of finalizing an exemption for milk and dairy containers. This exemption needed to be finalized because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containers. It was our work with the dairy industry that prompted EPA to develop an exemption and make sure the standards of the law are met in a commonsense way.”