Farmers and ranchers with on-farm fuel storage tanks could be forced to pay up to $25,000 to bring the tanks into compliance with new EPA water quality regulations that are unnecessary and unlawful, Steve Kouplen, Oklahoma Farm Bureau President, told a Senate subcommittee in Washington D.C., today.
The Beggs rancher, testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee many of the EPA’s regulatory requirements for establishing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) exceed the agency’s authority.
“What disturbs us the most is the EPA’s enforcement of rules for all sources of pollution-point and non-point sources,” Kouplen said. “We believe the TMDL program should respect the practical and legal differences between point and non-point sources.”
One result of the EPA’s far reaching enforcement requires owners of above-ground fuel storage tanks to build large protective dikes and other barriers to contain any possible leaks. The EPA’s rule on Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) fails to take into account the nature of production agriculture.
“Many of our producers purchase bulk fuel to save money and to have the fuel on hand during busy planting and harvesting season,” Kouplen said. “These federal regulations would force a hardship on them. The EPA should allow us to protect water quality in an economically and environmentally sound manner.”
Kouplen explained that Farm Bureau first opposed the TMDL regulations when they were announced three years ago because they required a costly implementation plan. This overstepped their authority and usurped the state’s right to make that decision.
“Congress went to great lengths to ensure that EPA did not prescribe local land use decisions by delegating non-point source control to the states,” Kouplen said. “The 2000 rules undercut this approach, allowing EPA to dictate how and when farmers can use their land.”
Kouplen emphasized Farm Bureau’s desire to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to protect and improve water quality.
“Farm Bureau is a strong supporter of the voluntary, incentive-based approach to working with farmers and ranchers to protect our environment,” Kouplen said.