EPA  is flaunting the will of Congress and of the American people by cracking down on greenhouse gas emission violations under its administrative rule-making procedure, says the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and a number of other agricultural organizations that have sued the agency to block enforcement of the new greenhouse gas emission rules that went into effect in January.
The last Congress took up climate change legislation, but failed to act on it because of a lack of consensus on such provisions as cap and trade or carbon credit trading that would have involved farmers, ranchers and energy companies.
“The last Congress debated whether they should pass cap and trade legislation to control greenhouse gases, and Congress decided no; the American people said no,” said Tamara Thies, the NCBA’s chief environmental counsel, during an interview at the Cattle Industry Convention in Denver.
“So, consequently, our Environmental Protection Agency decided that if Congress isn’t going to do it or the American people aren’t going to allow it, they’re going to move forward anyway and publish regulations under the Clean Air Act to regulate those greenhouse gases.”
Thies said the greenhouse gas regulations are just one area in what’s been a “perfect storm” on environmental regulatory activity under the Obama administration.
“In the cattle industry and in animal agriculture, in general, we are really being confronted with regulations from the EPA like we have never seen before,” said Thies, who also spoke at the NCBA’s Cattlemen’s College. “Every day it seems like a new regulation is coming out of that agency.”
Thies said the animal agriculture industry appears to have become a target of the EPA, which has hit the industry with a multitude of issues from greenhouse gas regulations, to “unreasonable and unattainable” dust regulations to ammonia regulations that she believes the agency has no authority to pursue.
The attacks are not confined to EPA. “From the NRCS, we’re being hit with efforts to restrict our ability to land-apply our manure to our crops. The regulations just seem to go on and on and it’s really becoming a concern to the bottom line of our industry,” she said.
“There are activists around the country who want to put as many restrictions on animal agriculture as possible because they have other agendas at play, and it just seems like this administration in particular is working with those groups conceivably to get it done.”
If the agency could document problems with certain practices, then the regulations would be justified. “But we’re really looking at efforts to regulate us when it’s not necessary. It’s not based on science, and I think it’s just someone’s agenda. That’s unfair, and we’re fighting it every day.”
NCBA has joined with other concerned agricultural organizations to form the Coalition for Responsible Regulation. That organization filed a lawsuit against EPA which seeks to block the agency from enforcing its new greenhouse gas emission rules.
“We’re asking the courts to undo their efforts because if Congress doesn’t want it to happen, the EPA has no authority and should not have the authority to make these regulations happen. We don’t believe the science is there, and we hope to have a decision by the end of this year on this issue.”
Under the rules, any new facility or modification to an existing facility that emits 75,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases must be permitted for those greenhouse gases.
During the Cattlemen’s College, Thies discussed more than 15 legislative and policy initiatives that could dramatically change the regulatory environment for cattle producers throughout the country.
Thies also discussed dust and ammonia regulation, as well as several initiatives focused on water quality and the Clean Water Act.