This Week’s Headlines
Shuster calls EPA’s water proposal ‘disturbing’
By DOROTHY NOBLE
ALTOONA, Pa. (May 6, 2014) — At a U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing April 28, Chairman Bill Shuster blasted the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water regulation proposal.
Flanked by four other Republican members of his committee, Rep. Shuster, R-Pa., said, “This is another example of a disturbing pattern of an Imperial Presidency that seeks to circumvent Congress.”
The hearing, held in Rep. Shuster’s home district, was announced as “Federal Regulation of Waters: Impacts of Administration Overreach on Local Economies and Job Creation.”
Testimony was offered by Thomas Nagle on behalf of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. Nagle, a beef and grains farmer on 775 acres in Cambria County, emphasized, “Clean water is important to all of us.”
“But,” Nagle continued, “your hearing today is not about the quality of our water, rather it’s about federal agencies attempting to assert their dominion and regulatory control over land use under the guise of clean water.”
Nagle pointed out that the Clean Water Act was signed into law before he was even born.
He added that some have been trying to claim power that the law never intended.
Noting that the act includes the term “navigable” more than 80 times, he stressed that the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the federal government is limited to regulating only “navigable” waters.
However, Nagle said analyses of this 370-page proposed rulemaking contains descriptions of land areas with little or no water that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would be considered to be “waters of the U.S.”
Citing examples of expanding the scope of federal agencies’ power and authority, Nagle said the proposed regulations scare him.
Moreover, Nagle continued, “I’m equally scared of the additional ammunition that this 370-page volume of regulations will give to ‘citizen action groups’ in the quest to advance their ideologies and political agendas.”
He noted that these groups oppose any agriculture that is not Norman Rockwell pictured types, which he said is unworkable for today’s agriculture. Further, those groups are well funded, he added.
Nagle told the committee of his concern that under this proposal, if he would miss or misunderstand any of the massive regulations he would be vulnerable to the harsh fines and other enforcement measures available to EPA and the Corps — up to $37,500 for each day.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which has voiced its opposition to the proposal on several occasions, said in a release the same day, “Farm Bureau maintains that Congress clearly intended regulations under the Clean Water Act to focus on navigable waters, not ponds, ditches, or puddles that occur on land during a heavy rainstorm.”
Nagle’s testimony concluded with the plea, “I would hope that Congress will help farmers convince these regulatory agencies to ‘ditch the rule.’”
Other witnesses included Ken Murin, chief of the Division of Wetlands, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection; David Spigelmyer, president of Marcellus Shale Coalition, Tonya Winkler, midstream permitting and compliance manager of Rice Energy; Warren Peter, president of Warren Peter Construction, representing the Pennsylvania Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders; and Jacqueline Fidler, manager-environmental resources, Consol Energy.
Murin said he had not fully analyzed the proposed rule. The other witnesses pointed to the negative economic impacts and burdens engendered by permitting delays and related costs, and to protective measures for clean water already in place.
Spigelmyer said the duplicative review process threatens the economic boom of the natural gas industry.
Many Pennsylvania farmers own the Marcellus Shale land.
Other committee members present were Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C. Rep. Gibbs is chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
At the hearing’s conclusion, Shuster emphasized the importance of the concerns, and that there should be hard science related to water regulations, not some knee-jerk reaction.