Pressure on EPA to Withdraw TMDL Rules Continues at Committee Hearing

Jun 28, 2000

Pressure on EPA to Withdraw TMDL Rules Continues at Committee Hearing

Washington, DC — Two days before the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) rules take effect, the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX), today renewed its united call on for the EPA to withdraw its controversial regulations.

"We have heard from farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, small businesses and local governments from all over the country opposing both the substance of these rules and the process by which they have been developed," Combest said. "At this point the burden is on the EPA to change the strong sentiment against its rules that prevails in Congress and throughout the country."

Between the House and Senate at least a dozen hearings have been held on these rules.  Twenty public forums around the country have attracted thousands of concerned citizens.  Six pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to address these rules including H.R. 4502, sponsored by the Chairman and Ranking Member Stenholm.  Nearly half of the Members of the House have cosponsored one or more of these bills.  The House has already passed appropriations language requiring the EPA to work through the many issues surrounding its proposed rules.  Nevertheless, EPA still appears determined to stay its present course.

"The EPA has clearly not done enough to convince the public that these rules are good policy, nor has the EPA adequately addressed the technical, financial and scientific issues surrounding the rules," said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX).  "If the EPA goes forward with these rules, without public consensus or solid scientific justification, they should be ready to face strenuous opposition from Congress and elsewhere."

Members present at today's hearing criticized the EPA for engaging in last minute negotiations with environmentalists, while excluding other stakeholders, to try and broker a deal on the rules that will earn their endorsement.   They also cited a number of independent reports issued this month detailing EPA's consistent failure to use sound science and accurate economic analysis in writing its rules.  The Society of American Foresters and the National Association of State Foresters surveyed all 1040 waterbodies identified by the EPA as impaired by silviculture.  The researchers found that silviculture played a possible role in affecting only 84 of these waterbodies.

In its report on the EPA, the National Academy of Science wrote, " many cases has not even been a major determinant of EPA's decisions.  EPA's past decisions and actions have largely been driven by the requirements of regulatory statutes and the policies and priorities of each administration."  Moreover, a General Accounting Office report presented at today's hearing stated that a "key limitation of the [economic] analyses was that they did not sufficiently recognize that the key water quality data available to EPA to identify the number of waters not meeting standards are incomplete, inconsistently collected by states, and sometimes based on outdated and unconfirmed sources.  As a result of these limitations, EPA's cost estimates are subject to substantial uncertainty."

"Taken individually, any one of these issues, if not adequately resolved by EPA, would be good cause for requiring EPA to withdraw its proposed rules and go back to the drawing board," Combest said.  "Together, they create a credibility hurdle that appears to be nearly impossible for EPA to clear.  Unless EPA can convince this committee and this Congress that its cost analysis, its process and its science are not fundamentally flawed, then the agency will have no choice but to start over on a new policy — one that is economically justifiable, scientifically sound and procedurally fair."