Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, this week introduced a number of amendments to the Farm bill which rein in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulatory burden that is harming farmers and rural communities across America.
"The biggest threat to family farmers and rural America is onerous, costly regulations coming out of the EPA," Senator Inhofe said. "That is why I've introduced amendments to the farm bill that will lessen the regulatory burden for farmers struggling in a tough economy. One amendment eases farmers compliance with EPA's Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule - a rule that is designed for refineries and major handlers of oil and gas products, not farmers; another amendment provides certainty for rural communities who are grappling with EPA's stated plans to issue new stormwater rules. I am pleased to introduce these amendments and I look forward to working with my colleagues to eliminate some of the pain of EPA's regulations on farmers and rural communities."
Inhofe-Sessions Amendment #2251 on Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC)
This amendment exempts farmers from SPCC regulations for above-ground oil storage tanks that have an aggregate storage capacity of less than 12,000 gallons. In addition to providing this exemption, it also allows all farmers who are regulated to self certify their own plans. This will dramatically decrease costs by eliminating the need to hire a professional engineer - of which there are very few available to farmers to complete these plans. There is virtually no history of oil spills from agricultural operations and farms simply do not pose the risks of potential spills that other sectors do.
Senator Inhofe has been working to lessen the regulatory burden of SPCC rule for some time. In June 2011, Senator Inhofe and 32 Senators joined to send a bipartisan letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA extend the implementation timeline for the amended SPCC rule for farmers, and work to ensure that the rule is not overly burdensome or confusing. In November 2011, EPA quietly announced on its website that it would be extending the SPCC compliance date to May 10, 2013 - a victory for farmers struggling to comply with the rule.
"EPA's SPCC rule is particularly hurting farmers in Oklahoma," Senator Inhofe continued. "I heard from one farmer in my state - one of the only farmers who took the time to actually comply with the SPCC rules - who told me that first, he had to fill out over 80 pages of paperwork that he did not understand. He hired on online service to help him comply, which cost him money and didn't make his job much easier. He must keep a copy of this plan on his property at all times in case he is inspected. If he had older tanks, the rules would have required him to purchase new, double-walled tanks that are incredibly expensive. In addition, he now has to build a berm around his tanks to hold 18,000 gallons of fuel in case it does leak. This will be both expensive and time consuming. He also must install a liner underneath the tanks and at the bottom of the berm to contain any leaks. He reports that the rules are extremely confusing, and the regulations just don't make sense given the fact that farmers will not let leaks go unnoticed because diesel fuel is so expensive. I am happy to introduce an amendment that will ease regulatory burdens on farmers."
Inhofe-Vitter Amendment #2250 on Stormwater Regulations
This amendment will provide certainty for rural communities struggling with EPA's stated plan to impose new stormwater regulations. It will ensure that EPA keeps its word and fully evaluates the current stormwater regulatory situation - what practices work and don't work, what the costs and benefits are to cities and counties - before imposing new, uncertain, and costly stormwater rules that can hurt rural communities. In EPA's current stormwater regulations, the agency committed to completing an evaluation of the current rule - this amendment prevents EPA from issuing any new regulations until that evaluation is completed. It simply ensures that EPA follows its own regulations and guidance.
"If EPA goes through with its current strormwater regulation plan, it will be the most expensive rule in the agency's history - and rural communities, with already stretched budgets, will be hit hard," Senator Inhofe said. "I am pleased to offer an amendment which requires that EPA take a step back and fully evaluate this regulatory plan before imposing any rules that rural communities would find impossible to implement. EPA has already committed to going through with this evaluation and I intend to hold the agency to its word."
Inhofe Amendment #2249 - Block Grant the Food Stamp Program
In addition to the two amendments reining in EPA, Senator Inhofe also introduced an amendment that would repeal the current mandatory food stamp program and replace it with a discretionary block grant, with money going to states to design and run their own nutrition assistance programs. Because states know the needs of their people much more intimately than the federal government ever will, they can design their nutrition assistance programs in whatever way makes sense for them. It gets the federal government out of the food stamp business altogether and empowers states to design and run their own programs.
Barrasso-Inhofe Amendment #2165
Senator Inhofe is cosponsoring an amendment version of S. 2245 the Preserve the Waters of the US Bill. This bill will prevent EPA from issuing guidance that will fundamentally change the scope of the Clean Water Act - pushing it well beyond the limits that the Supreme Court decisions have reined it in. Inhofe has been a leader in the fight against expansion of the clean water act - especially because of the profound impacts to western states like Oklahoma.
Senator Inhofe is supporting a number of amendments that will correct bad court decisions and relive regulatory burdens on rural communities including Hagan/Crapo's permanent fix to the NPDES/FIFRA duplicative permitting, Johann's farm dust bill and many other amendments that will rein in the federal government, save the tax payers money and ensure economic growth for the future of rural America.
Senator Inhofe is also supporting rural water by co-sponsoring Toomey #2247 - the End Unnecessary Mailers Act - which will save small rural water systems in compliance with SDWA hundreds of dollars a year in printing and mailing costs; and co- sponsoring Wicker #2372 - Grass Roots Rural and small community water system technical assistance, which ensures that small communities served by EPA and USDA rural development get the information and assistance they need in meeting EPA's drinking water requirements. Finally, Senator Inhofe is supporting Boozman #2356 - which will provide rent-free rights-of-way for water projects that cross federal lands and are federally-financed, including projects financed through USDA Rural Development Loans and Grants or State Revolving Loan Funds.