A top administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency claims proposed changes to the Clean Water Act won’t harm agriculture, but understands that message is a difficult one to make in farm country.
Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water with the EPA, Ken Kopocis, denies proposed changes to the Clean Water Act aim at extending the EPA’s reach onto the farm.
“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers. So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction,” Kopocis tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview from this Washington, D.C. office.
Yet, Nebraska farm groups don’t believe such assurances and staunchly oppose the proposal.
Sen. Mike Johanns, the former Secretary of Agriculture, has flatly stated the EPA lacks credibility with him.
Johanns, during a recent news conference hosted by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, rejected suggestions by the EPA that its proposed change won’t make a difference in enforcement of the act.
“Quite honestly, they don’t have a lot of credibility with me. I don’t trust them. I think they have given me reason over the past six years not to trust them,” Johanns replied. “And we have to get them to write the rule in a way that says that they’re not expanding their jurisdiction.”
We quoted Johanns and asked Kopocis if the EPA has a trust issue in Nebraska.
“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.”
Kopocis says the proposal to change the Clean Water Act seeks to provide greater clarity and predictability to enforcement of the act. He insists the EPA has moved to relieve confusion in wake of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling on the act.
Kopocis says the EPA has heard the complaints from farm country and is reaching out to address those concerns.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]