OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S.
House Committee on Agriculture took shots at the EPA
during a hearing Thursday, indicating that the
agency is out of touch with agriculture and relies
too much on court settlements to direct policies
that affect farmers.
The hearing was held as part
of many hearings from several committees, all
looking to strip EPA authority on a variety of
issues -- from enforcing greenhouse gas emissions,
to pushing for more transparency on court
Members of the committee
questioned EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about
EPA's track record of more often settling lawsuits
with environmental groups rather than challenging
them in court. Multiple committee members argued
those lawsuits more often result in EPA handing down
regulations that hurt agriculture.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.,
suggested EPA has allowed environmental groups to
dictate regulations that most often harm farmers.
"I believe your agency is
the most unpopular agency from sea to shining sea,"
he said. "Your agency often pursues a course of
agency activism. You settle suits that allow you to
pursue a course of action that law would otherwise
not allow you to do so."
Cardoza then asked Jackson
whether she was aware of EPA agency employees asking
outside groups to file lawsuits, though Cardoza had
no evidence that has occurred.
Jackson replied, "I'm not
aware of any. That would be highly inappropriate."
Jackson said EPA typically
works with the U.S. Department of Justice when
deciding how to respond to lawsuits.
The EPA has been getting hit
from several sides. Earlier Thursday, the Energy and
Commerce Committee's Energy and Power subcommittee
approved House Resolution 910 during a markup on the
bill that would block EPA from regulating greenhouse
That bill passed along party
lines and was sent to the full committee.
Jackson was put in the hot
seat on a variety of agriculture issues, but she
started her testimony by refuting many of the widely
held notions and concerns coming from U.S. farmers.
She said there have been many "mischaracterizations"
by "special interests." Jackson said EPA is not
planning to regulate farm dust, milk under oil
containment rules and does not have a zero-tolerance
policy on agriculture chemical spray drift. EPA also
doesn't plan to impose specific pollution limits on
fertilizer and animal manure.
Still, lawmakers insisted
EPA is usurping Congress. Rep. Timothy Johnson,
R-Ill., said he believes EPA has gone around the law
by using the rule-making process.
"Your agency, time after
time after time, has intruded on legislative
authority," he said. "We're gravely concerned with
what EPA is doing, specifically with agriculture."
FARMERS HAVE NEGATIVE
VIEW OF EPA
Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn.,
told Jackson that farmers' "negative" view of EPA
partially comes from what appears to be EPA's
hesitancy to challenge lawsuits.
"They see an out-of-control
agency that does undermine agriculture," he said.
"Many cases are not litigated to the point where a
court issues a ruling. Often a settlement is made.
This is not any way to make agriculture policy. This
sue-and-settle strategy keeps the process in the
dark. It needs to be a transparent process. I think
this is an opportunity for Congress to address some
EPA has been sued by a
variety of environmental groups throughout the
Perhaps the largest lawsuit
was brought in recent months by the Center for
Biological Diversity. The group claims EPA failed to
consult federal wildlife officials about the
Endangered Species Act before it allowed the use of
If successful, the lawsuit
that names hundreds of threatened or endangered
species, as well as nearly all agriculture
chemicals, could stop or severely limit the use of
pesticides pending an EPA review.
Peterson said EPA needs to
be more transparent about the settlements as well as
the amount of taxpayer dollars given to successful
litigants in those cases.
"I'd like to know what
settlements were made since you took over as
administrator, and whether rule making was made from
it?" he asked. "I can't find on your website these
settlements. I hear complaints. Is it being made
In many cases, those groups
that file lawsuits are reimbursed for court fees and
other expenses in successful cases brought against
Todd Neeley can be reached