A top administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims proposed changes to the Clean Water Act won’t harm agriculture, but he understands that statement is a difficult one to make in farm country.
Deputy Assistant EPA Administrator Ken Kopocis denies proposed changes to the Clean Water Act aim at extending the agency’s reach onto the farm.
“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers,” Kopocis says. “So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction.”
Some Iowa farm groups don’t believe such assurances and staunchly oppose the proposal. Officials with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation fear tighter federal regulation of waterways will hurt farmers and the ag industry.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley met in July with the head of the EPA, an agency he says is out to “harm American agriculture” with its far-reaching policies. Kopocis was asked if the EPA has a trust issue in the Midwest.
“I don’t know whether there’s a trust issue. I won’t speak on behalf of that,” Kopocis stated. “I do know that we have not had the best relations with the agricultural community and both this office and the administrator (Gina McCarthy) in particular are very interested in trying to address that.”
He denies the proposed change to the Clean Water Act would give the EPA greater regulatory power over farms and insists the change will clarify the act. Kopocis says the proposal comes in response to a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that spawned a lot of confusion about the reach of the Clean Water Act.
“The agencies were responding to the calls that were out there for us to provide greater clarity and predictability that people felt was lacking,” he says. “That’s what we intended to do.”
Farm groups see the proposal as a power grab by the EPA, which would expand the agency’s regulatory power to nearly all waters on farms.
Grassley tells Radio Iowa the proposed changes go too far. “(McCarthy is) assuming jurisdiction over waterways that may not even have water in them,” Grassley says. “You’re not even going to get a canoe in them and she’s claiming jurisdiction over riverbeds that you might not even be able to get a canoe into.”