By SUSAN BLOWER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — New environmental regulations slated for 2013 – to be enacted after the Nov. 6 election – are expected to tighten under the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
Both supporters and opponents of more regulation are fuzzy on the details, owing to a lack of information coming from the White House and agencies such as the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA). “We don’t know what EPA is going to do, for sure. Regulatory guidelines have not been published for a year now,” said Matt Dempsey, communications director for the office of U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
“We spent last year watching as rule after rule was delayed or punted – or given late on a Friday afternoon.”
Inhofe, ranking leader of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, compiled a report of expected upcoming regulatory activities. They are summarized as follows, beginning with those that impact agriculture.
This regulation would affect more than 90 percent of livestock producers, according to the EPA. Touted by environmental groups as the first major climate change rule, the new regulations enacted this year virtually shut down new coal plant construction.
The next step, expected in 2013, will likely be to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal plants.
The regulations would require existing plants to acquire expensive new technology, costs which likely would be passed on to the consumer.
Coal as an energy source would be regulated out of business, Inhofe said. However, the EPA disputes that claim: “Because this standard is in line with current industry investment patterns, this proposed standard is not expected to have notable costs and is not projected to impact electricity prices or reliability,” the agency said in a statement in March, as reported in the National Journal.
Under the Clean Air Act, all industries would be regulated for greenhouse emissions in phases, including farms, churches, schools, restaurants and hospitals. Known as the “cow tax,” farms would pay an annual fee of $23,000 for each ton of greenhouse gas emitted, affecting at least 37,000 farms and ranches and 90 percent of U.S. livestock production, estimated by the EPA.
Florida numeric nutrient criteria
The Associated Press has reported environmental groups were pleased with the first federal limits on runoff in Florida, but because of Florida’s role in the upcoming election, those groups are “still waiting.”
In 2011, Florida petitioned the EPA to withdraw its numeric standards and established its own standards for inland waters. EPA has delayed approval of Florida’s standards, Inhofe said. The standards seek to limit the amount of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, in waters. These substances are used on row crops and are results of human activity, said Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
Parrish said last week the AFBF is “worried” the EPA standards for Florida could be applied to the Mississippi Watershed, affecting 31 states, including Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. He said the EPA water standards are based on pristine waters in uninhabited regions of the country and that they are not practical for areas with agricultural lands or human habitation. “Everybody wants clean water, but the issue is shrouded in complexities. People hear the bumper-sticker version,” Parrish added.
EPA’s water guidance
EPA has developed a new water guidance document, which reinterprets recent Supreme Court decisions to allow EPA to expand federal control over every body of water in the United States.
This guidance, like greenhouse gas regulations, failed to pass as legislation when Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate. Inside EPA reported last spring the guidance will be delayed until after the November election.
Parrish said, despite the official delay, AFBF has received reports from individuals, of conflict with the EPA under this guidance document. “This is really the big issue. This is not a controversy over rivers, streams or estuaries,” he said. “The EPA is extending its power over ditches, canals or any manmade water structures, even ditches filled only by rainwater.
“A lot of things would come under the control of the EPA, such as whether a tractor can pull or plow through a ditch, a farmer can plant soybeans or corn on it or a new power line or road be built through it. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is picking winners and losers to advance different energy sources.”
The result of increased expense and difficulty in transporting or growing food will be higher food costs, which would hurt lower-income people in the United States as well as the rest of the world, Parrish said. “The EPA believes that water (quality) is so important that the federal government should protect it all. It can’t trust the states or individuals to do it,” he said, noting that states had authority over local land use prior to this document.
Spill prevention control
This would require farmers and ranchers to develop and implement oil and gasoline spill prevention plans.
The original deadline was November 2011, but was delayed due to pressure from Congress. The new deadline is May 10, 2013. “This potentially could affect many farmers. They have to assess their operations to contain a spill. They have to look at storage, possibly construct a dike and potentially engage a professional engineer,” said Paul Schlegel, director of the energy and environmental team for AFBF.
“There is no record or history of farms spilling oil into navigational waters, but EPA reps told us that the law does not exempt our industry.”
Farm dust has been a political football between the EPA and Congressional members from rural states such as Indiana in recent months.
Inhofe reported the EPA may tighten its standards for coarse particulate matter – commonly called dust. If so, tilling fields or managing large livestock herds could be problematic.
Schlegel said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has written senators that the agency has made a policy decision not to tighten standards for farm dust.
“Science does not justify the concern over coarse particulate matter. Fine particulate matter in cities is a different matter,” Schlegel said.