Playing the Wading Game with Clean Water

Playing the Wading Game with Clean Water

Clean water issues dominated discussion when FFAA hit the halls of Congress this spring. A torrent of concerns regarding the U.S. EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) rule for Florida and its requirement for NPDES permits for pesticide applications to, over, or near water were aired.

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Both issues bedeviling Florida agriculture have their origins in legal settlements. A consent decree negotiated between Earthjustice and EPA spawned the NNC rule. A U.S. Sixth Circuit Court decision in the National Cotton Council vs. EPA case left Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) supremacy — the pesticide label is the law — in jeopardy.

For two years now, a broad coalition of interests have demonstrated the scientific flaws, economic hardships and legal ramifications, and documented EPA’s reticence to revisit these issues in meetings with members of Congress. In March, FFAA joined stakeholders from cities, counties, utility, and stormwater interests in taking our concerns regarding EPA’s NNC rule to the Florida delegation. In May, FFAA members joined the Southern Crop Production Association’s legislative fly-in to talk about the NPDES issue.

Helping Hands

Recent Congressional action shows our concerns are gaining traction on Capitol Hill. In late May, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and others introduced the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (H.R. 2018). The bipartisan bill aims “to reverse the erosion of states’ authority and partnership with the federal government under the Clean Water Act. This well-established and effective partnership has come under increasing attack by the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency,” states a news release accompanying the bill’s introduction.
“Under the Obama Administration, EPA continues to strangle economic growth in this country with its overreaching and arbitrary regulatory regime,” Chairman Mica said in the release. “This bill will help ensure a common sense regulatory regime that does not unnecessarily harm our nation’s farmers, miners, and other businesses critical to our economy. We must restore and preserve the federal-state partnership that is the foundation of the Clean Water Act, but which is being progressively undermined by EPA.” He shared these same concerns in his meeting with me in early May.
On behalf of FFAA, I deeply appreciate this action by Congressman Mica and the unceasing efforts of Congressmen Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Dennis Ross (R-FL) to help hold EPA accountable over its NNC rule for Florida.

Law And Order

Meanwhile on the NPDES front, 137 co-sponsors signed onto Ohio Representative Bob Gibbs’ H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011. “Thanks largely to the support of key leaders in the U.S. House, our policymakers have worked together to establish a return to order and dedication to sound policy,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, when the legislation passed the House at the end of March.
The legislation corrects a 2009 ruling in the 6th Circuit Court that required Clean Water Act NPDES permits for four types of pesticide applications “to, over, or near” waters of the U.S. The court’s original ruling overturned decades of legal, legislative, and regulatory precedence established under the FIFRA and Clean Water Act. Earlier this spring, the 6th Circuit Court granted EPA’s request for an additional six-month extension of the original stay, so the new deadline to have this resolved by is Oct. 31, 2011.
FFAA encourages you to contact U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and urge him to vote for H.R. 872 when it is brought up in the Senate. And, please thank him for his support of an independent National Academy of Sciences review of EPA’s NNC economic analysis of the costs to implement this rule in Florida. Congress is listening.