WASHINGTON, DC – The Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing entitled, “H.R.___, Farm Regulatory Certainty Act.”
#SubEnvironment examined a Discussion Draft of bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) that seeks to protect farmers, who are trying to do the right thing and comply with applicable requirements, from being targeted by citizen suits under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
- Amend the citizen suit provision of RCRA with respect to agricultural operations, and;
- Not allow a citizen suit to be brought against an agricultural operation if the state or Environmental Protection Agency is already actively working with the agricultural operation through a civil, criminal, or administrative action to address identified problems.
Reps. Newhouse & Costa listen as today’s hearing is gaveled in
“This legislation is straightforward and limited in scope to the citizen suit provisions under RCRA. Simply put, this legislation covers only the agricultural activities that are already exempt under EPA’s RCRA regulations,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I firmly believe farmers have and must continue to lead the charge on good stewardship and conservation. The discussion draft before you today seeks to protect farmers who are trying to do the right thing by working with state or federal agencies to address nutrient management issues.”
In his opening statement, Rep. Costa stated, “Farmers depend on the land for their livelihoods. It is in their interest to be good stewards. Let us give them the certainty necessary to comply with the regulations put in place by state and federal authorities. This common sense legislation would go a long way to both improve the environment and allow farmers to continue to provide abundant, healthy, affordable food for our nation and the world.”
The second panel of witnesses respond to member questions
Dan Wood, Executive Director, Washington State Dairy Federation, discussed his support for the discussion draft, stating, “If enacted, this legislation would preserve the ability of regulators to work with farmers just as EPA was doing in this case before the lawsuit, and it would give farmers renewed confidence that their efforts to be proactive environmental stewards will not harm them unintentionally. Once again, this is a narrow, bipartisan bill that is intended to correct a targeted problem, not a bill intended to undermine environmental protection in any manner.”
Amy Romig, Partner, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun, echoed Mr. Wood’s support, commenting, “I urge the Committee to approve the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act because it protects agricultural organizations from excessive and possibly contradictory litigation, it recognizes government agencies as the first defense in environmental compliance and enforcement, and it does not impact protection of human health and the environment.”
“The purpose of this bill is not to shield agricultural operations from RCRA citizen suits, but rather to ensure that if state or federal regulators are otherwise seeking compliance through civil, criminal, or administrative actions and the agricultural operation is trying to be a good actor by working with the regulator and has entered into a consent agreement or order, then a RCRA citizen suit may not be initiated,” concluded #SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus. “If the state or EPA are not diligently taking action to obtain or ensure compliance, the bill does not preclude citizen suits.”
A background memo, legislative text, witness testimony and an archived webcast can be found online HERE.