The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sure isn’t afraid to further restrict ranchers from doing business by extreme regulatory measures. Whether it’s trying to regulate dust or mud puddles, the EPA is more worried about power than protecting the environment.
In late June, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which is meant to clarify the Clean Water Act, but has instead only created more risk and uncertainty for landowners.
Watch this Beef Roundtable video: NCBA & AFBF discuss whether EPA’s actions were illegal in pushing for WOTUS rule
For example, WOTUS has created very narrow exemptions for agriculture, defines ditches as tributaries, and grants EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers far more control because of the broader definitions created in the new rule.
EPA’s power grab is ironic considering its most recent flub — “accidentally” spilling 3 million gallons of toxic waste water into the Animas River in Colorado, which connects with rivers flowing through New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Some reports are saying that the spill has resulted in chemical levels of lead, arsenic and other dangerous metals could be 12,000 times higher than normal.
EPA has taken ownership for the accident, but their weak apology and slow response to negate the impacts of the incident are irresponsible at best and sinister at worst. In fact, one geologist predicted this spill would happen one week before the water was released. He reasoned that the EPA was looking to condemn the Gold King Mine and turn it into a Superfund site, which would provide EPA with extra funding and grant them control of the area.
I would like to think something like that would only happen in a horror movie, but I can’t help but be skeptical about the intentions of the EPA. However, if this truly was an accident, then the EPA should be held responsible for the damage, just like a private enterprise would.
Katie Tubb, researcher for the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, writes, “Companies found in violation of the Clean Water Act pay for mitigation and repairs, as well as millions in fines to the EPA and states. For example, Arch Coal Inc. paid $2 million fines for discharging mine refuse into waters, and XTO Energy paid $2.3 million for discharging dredge and fill material.
“While many are quick to use accidents like the BP oil spill to condemn capitalism and profits, the EPA’s spill at Gold King Mine in Colorado should illustrate the problems of socializing the cost of accidents. In the case of the Gold King Mine, the EPA and Congress will have to pay for mitigation, repairs, and settlements—which is another way of saying every U.S. taxpayer will pay for it. The EPA must be held responsible for its actions, carrying the full responsibility by paying for costs and damages out of its own budget. Decisions about how to move forward should ultimately be given to the states impacted.”
This spill will not only impact the natural habitat of wildlife in the surrounding area, but also the irrigated crops, the businesses that rely on the summer income of river activities from tourists, the plants and trees alongside the river, and the health of the residents in the area. This was a major screw up by the EPA, and the public outcry should be a lot stronger than it currently is. We should demand more from the government that demands so much of us.
EPA can’t stick its head in the mud on this one, but they are sure trying. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently told reporters that the water quality of the river has returned to “pre-incident conditions” and that “The very good news is that we see that this river is restoring itself.”
Perhaps EPA should worry about following the rules of the Clean Water Act instead of pushing more regulations on responsible landowners. What do you think? Share your thoughts on the King Gold Mine spill and the WOTUS rule in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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