Ag Groups Write EPA on TMDL Proposal, Water Quality Strategy

October 15, 2010 Bookmark and Share

NAWG and other agricultural organizations joined with two sets of comments sent this week to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing deep concerns about the Agency’s water regulation strategy.

In one letter, the groups responded directly to proposed Total Maximum Daily Load requirements, known as TMDLs, for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which were created as part of a lawsuit settlement between EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The TMDL proposal is concerning to many in the states that could be regulated by it and many in the agricultural community, in part because it could easily become a model for watersheds around the country.

The groups requested EPA withdraw the draft TMDL or, barring that, make public the models its scientists relied upon to develop it and allow for a comment period on the modeling formula.

They told Agency officials that withdrawing the current proposal and working with Chesapeake watershed jurisdictions (six states and the District of Columbia) would allow EPA to “correct deficiencies in its modeling” and reconcile EPA TMDL proposals with existing nutrient management proposals in at least two states, Maryland and Virginia.

The second set of comments provided broader recommendations on a draft “Strategy for Achieving Clean Water” document released by EPA in August. That document outlined in depth actions EPA plans to take with regards to nutrient management across the United States, in some ways mirroring the TMDL proposal already in place in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The groups pointed out that the “Draft Strategy is neither a draft nor a strategy” but rather a statement of EPA’s agenda as it relates to water quality. The agriculture groups submitting comments this week urged broad reconsideration of EPA’s goals, taking into account the financial and social costs associated with certain regulations, as well as ensuring all regulations are science-based. The comments also urged EPA to view landowners as part of the solution to water quality problems and as stakeholders who should be engaged in discussions of any new requirements.

The two documents sent this week are just the latest in official and informal comments to EPA from agricultural representatives, who are working intensively in a coalition environment and as individuals to address an onslaught of new proposed regulations and court decisions that require EPA to act. These efforts are focused on ensuring EPA officials have adequate and accurate information about the nature of agricultural production and efforts already underway to improve water quality, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region.

To read either set of comments or learn more about this range of issues, please visit www.wheatworld.org/environmentalissues.