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EPA Administrator responds to congressional criticism

posted on March 18, 2011

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation prohibiting EPA from regulating emissions of greenhouse gasses.

GOP leaders say they'll seek approval from the full House before the Easter recess next month. A similar proposal in the Senate could be voted on as early as next week.

President Obama has indicated he'll veto any legislation aimed at compromising EPA enforcement of laws relating to climate change.

Increasingly though, GOP congressmen are challenging EPA authority -- as it relates to climate change AND agriculture.

EPA Administrator responds to congressional criticism

The House Agriculture Committee and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency exchanged barbs last week at a broad topic comprehensive hearing. The members of congress wanted to hear about the EPA's mission to protect human health and the interaction with the agricultural community. Committee members took shots at Lisa Jackson's agency over enforcement of laws, legal settlements and what some lawmakers called an over-reaching organization. Chairman Frank Lucas set the tone early in his opening remarks.

Rep. Frank Lucas: "Farmers and ranchers believe your agency is attacking them. They believe little credit is given to them for voluntary conservation activities they've engaged in for years."

Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator: "Farmers and ranchers are an essential part of the economy. They give us food, fiber and fuel. The innovators in American agriculture deserve great credit for the significant steps they've taken to protect the environment while feeding millions of people.

Ranking member Representative Collin Peterson wanted to know about the EPA's legal tactics which he called a ‘sue and settle policy."

Rep. Collin Peterson: "More and more we are seeing important policy decisions that impact agriculture arise not from the legislative process, but from a litigation process where court decisions or secret lawsuit settlement negotiations result in poor public policy decisions. If we don't work together to find a solution, producers will likely continue being told how to operate by bureaucrats, lawyers and judges who don't understand agriculture. My opinion, this is not the way to make agriculture policy."

Jackson: "We look at what the law requires us to do. One of the questions is whether you would lose if you went to court and whether we would be best served by settling early and trying to agree on a schedule for rulemaking. Oftentimes, that rule making is overdue, that we can live with rather than have the courts impose one on us. The litigation risk is a very important consideration."

Jackson added it is common for EPA to work with the Department of Justice on legal strategy. Administrator Jackson said she wanted to dispel several myths about her organization. One such myth involves the regulating of emissions from cows, or what has commonly been called the "Cow Tax," saying that a lobbyist is to blame for that tale. Jackson: "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."

Another misconception, according to Jackson, is the treatment of spilled milk, which now, is handled the same way as spilled oil. Jackson said an exemption is almost finalized for milk and dairy containers. And she says she's only following the laws passed that she's charged with enforcing. Jackson: "This exemption needed to be finalized because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containers."

Jackson also said it is a false notion that EPA is planning on mandating Federal numeric nutrient limits on states and dust regulations are not expanding, but a congressional mandated review of the causes of pollutants, is.

Jackson: "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."

Tags: Congress Environmental Protection Agency government industry news pollution