The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today approved legislation to reduce regulatory and government burdens on farming, forestry and other rural economic activities in the United States, and to provide more coordinated outreach to persons with disabilities during disasters.
The Committee considered and approved the following bills:
H.R. 2541, Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act: This bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), was approved by voice vote. This legislation clarifies what has been long-standing practice of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- forest roads and silviculture activities were never intended to be regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA). In fact, the EPA last week proposed a regulation to administratively exempt these roads from section 402 permits under the CWA; however this process could take years.
H.R. 2541 will more promptly ensure continued forestry operations without unnecessary and unintended regulatory burdens.
"I'll continue fighting for this solutions-oriented bill supported by business, labor, Republicans and Democrats because it helps protect hundreds of thousands of forest industry-related jobs in Washington state and across the country," said Herrera Beutler. "We can preserve water quality and forest health, and we can do it without crushing businesses with this unnecessary permitting requirement. Permanently eliminating this rule once and for all would be a victory for an industry that provides good jobs to folks in Southwest Washington and elsewhere."
H.R. 5961, Farmer's Privacy Act of 2012: This measure, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), was approved by voice vote. The bill creates a process that would authorize how and when the EPA can carry out overflight inspections of agricultural lands. Currently, the EPA is carrying out these inspections with little regard for privacy rights or due process of law.
"I am thrilled that the Committee sees the importance of protecting local farmers from unnecessary aerial surveillance," said Capito. "Unemployment has been at or above 8% for 41 consecutive months. Conducting flyovers of family farms across the country is not the best use of taxpayer money. I look forward to the full House considering my bill as soon as possible."
H.R. 4278, Preserving Rural Resources Act of 2012: This legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA), was approved by a vote of 30 to19. The bill reduces regulatory burdens for farmers, ranchers and others by clarifying Congress' original intent to provide exemptions from the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process for normal farming, ranching, silviculture, and other rural economic activities. Congress provided exemptions in law so Clean Water Act permits would not be required for these types of normal activities.
"I am pleased to see the Preserving Rural Resources Act has been favorably reported out of the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and can now be considered by the full House for a vote," Hurt said. "This bipartisan legislation will provide much-needed regulatory relief to our agricultural and forestry community at a time when unreasonable federal regulations stand as a primary roadblock to their success. Though our American farmers have the greatest stake in preserving our natural resources, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers have often misinterpreted federal law in enforcing the code. This legislation will help put an end to this misinterpretation that costs our farmers thousands of dollars and years of lost production. I thank Chairman Mica for his leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to the consideration of the Preserving Rural Resources Act by the full House of Representatives as we continue to put forth commonsense measures that make it easier for our small businesses and farmers to succeed."
H.R. 5806, the Outreach to People with Disabilities During Emergencies Act: This bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), was approved by voice vote. The measure requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide guidance and coordinate with individuals, officials, and organizations to outreach to people with disabilities during a disaster.