In The Hot Seat: EPA Administrator Michael Regan defends handling of WOTUS and thoughts on pesticides

The House Ag Committee took the EPA Administrator to task for his stance on WOTUS and agriculture chemicals.

Representative Austin Scott started off by asking Regan about herbicides.

“When you take these herbicides off the market, and you have to transit the field multiple times because you can’t use herbicides, so you’re burning more diesel, you have to cut the dirt deeper with a bottom plow instead of using no-till, the damage that’s being done to the environment simply by the courts not taking into account the impact on production agriculture and good environmental practices when they take these chemicals off the market”

Administrator Regan responded said first and foremost, we must look at science.

“I believe that our farmers should have every tool in the toolbox and so there’s a couple of things that we can do. I think the first thing is making sure that we are looking at the science and making sure that the science is correct. I also think that when we have situations like Dicamba, it’s not about ripping off the market, it’s about making sure that our farmers have the education so that we can avoid the over spray and having millions of dollars of crops disrupted because some farmers need that pesticide.”

Congressman Scott Desjarlais of Tennessee switched gears to focus on WOTUS. He Regan about what EPA’s rationale was for moving forward with the new WOTUS rule before the Supreme Court rule on the Sackett case.

“I think two reasons: the first is the looming litigation for not having an updated rule because the previous rule was vacated; secondly, we learned from the Navigable Waters rule and Obama rule. So what we did was we put a more narrow definition of Navigable Waters rule that we thought would thread a needle and then we went and codified all these exclusions and exemptions. We will respect the Supreme Court’s ruling, obviously, what we didn’t want to do was face litigation for not acting for two years and then start from scratch once we got the Sackett ruling. We work with USDA and we created and clarified exclusions to support farmers, worked directly with USDA on exclusions for prior converted cropland, certain ditches that drain dry land and certain swells and erosion features, certain artificially irrigated areas, and certain artificial lakes and ponds. We went back and we wanted to codify exclusions and exemptions within the regulatory text, and that’s what we did in this rule.”

Congressman Desjarlais then asked Regan about conflicting interpretations of the new WOTUS rule between EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Regan said he would take those concerns to the highest level of the Army Corps to get a correct definition of “prior converted cropland.”