By RACHEL LANE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. EPA is taking comments from the public about how agency regulations might be modified, replaced or repealed.
On April 11, the EPA submitted paperwork asking for public comments. It is part of the “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” Executive Order 13777 signed by President Donald Trump on Feb. 24. The stated purpose of the order is to lower regulatory burdens on the American people.
A Regulatory Reform Task Force is to be created in the agency to make recommendations about existing regulations. The public comments the EPA has requested will be used to inform the Task Force’s evaluation.
Former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the relationship of the USDA and EPA is important to rural America.
"We worked closely with the EPA. We didn’t always necessarily agree on issues because we came at an issue potentially from a different starting point, but it for there to be a steady and consistent line of communication between the Department of Agriculture and the EPA on a variety of issues,” he said.
The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation is an example held up by many in agriculture as regulatory overreach by the EPA. It was reviewed and tried to be implemented for almost two years before Trump signed an executive order to withdraw the rule.
The rule was effective August 2015 to expand the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said the EPA didn’t listen to the concerns of farmers and ranchers while finalizing the rule.
The original Clean Water Act limited federal guidelines as navigable waterways. If it had been implemented, WOTUS would have expanded the definition to draw most waterways under federal control. “The rule defines terms like ‘tributary’ and ‘adjacent’ in ways that make it impossible for farmers and ranchers to know whether the specific ditches, ephemeral drains or low areas on their land will be deemed ‘waters of the U.S.,” the AFBF stated.
The public comment period ends on May 15. Comments so far range from requests that EPA funding not be cut, to name-calling of Trump and the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. Calls to follow science and be cautious about climate change appear in many comments. Most of the comments are anonymous.
“It is the duty of competent people such as you or I to serve not only ourselves, and not only our neighbors, but those who will inherit what we make or destroy. It is what the men and women of the EPA were hired to do,” read one comment from a woman who identified herself as a 30-year-old former farm girl.
“Americans have shown again and again that they believe in the EPA. We may grumble and complain. But look at the money we have spent to save environments and the fauna and flora that reside in America,” another comment stated. Comments include stories of what people remember from the 1970s or before when states and local governments were in charge of regulations.
The EPA was formed in 1970 when former President Richard Nixon signed the agency into law after chemicals on the Cuyahoga River caught on fire again. The photos made national news.
Trump has asked Congress to consider a federal budget that would cut the EPA budget by roughly one-third. A handful of Republicans in the House have even proposed House Resolution 861, to terminate the EPA effective Dec. 31, 2018.
Information about how to leave a comment, read existing comments and the information on regulatory reform canbe found on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/regulatory-reform