Secret Documents, Questionable Actions Paint Ugly Picture of EPA

steve corn head shotGeorge Strait made a living putting out country hit singles. “Ace in the Hole” immediately comes to mind. You might remember the song for its message about having a little something up your sleeve to ensure things ultimately go your way. “You’ve got to have an ace in the hole,” sang Strait. “A little secret that nobody knows.”

While I don’t know if officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are George Strait fans, I do know they understand the idea of having a little something up their sleeve and know a thing or two about secrets. This became apparent a few weeks ago when documents came to light pointing out the joint Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and EPA “Waters of the U.S.” regulatory proposal was, in fact, virtually all EPA and very little Corps. Worse, the documents paint a picture of the EPA ignoring concerns the Corps had raised regarding the regulatory proposal to vastly expand EPA’s control over private property.

The documents came to light when Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the Corps to provide information concerning the development of the “Waters” rule. The Corps provided the documents, but asked they be kept hidden from public view. Evidently they show that Corps staff had questions about the validity of EPA’s economic analysis and the rule’s unworkability due to lack of clarity concerning what “waters” were to be regulated. If those concerns sound familiar it’s because they are the same concerns echoed by virtually every opponent of the rule, Farm Bureau included.

And it doesn’t end there.

As I write this, a Dear Colleague letter is making its way through Congressional offices. The letter seeks to have EPA’s Office of Inspector General investigate all matters relevant to EPA’s efforts in generating support for the “Waters” rule. The effort stems from a recent New York Times article exposing EPA’s abuse of the public comment process by engaging in an unprecedented advocacy campaign intended to generate public support for the proposal. According to the Times, EPA engaged in a grassroots solicitation for public comments by partnering in social media campaigns with groups like the Sierra Club to intentionally drown out opposition and to help justify EPA’s actions.

EPA has consistently made claims it received over one million comments on the rule with 90 percent of them being supportive. However, according the Corps (EPA’s jilted partner) only 20,000 plus of those were considered unique, and of those, only 10 percent were considered substantive. The vast majority of comments appear to be mass mailings generated by EPA’s own lobbying efforts. Not only are EPA’s actions on this front potentially illegal, but reflect an abuse of the most democratic component of the federal rulemaking process designed to give a voice to those impacted.

The picture painted by EPA’s actions, while ugly, is clear. The EPA was determined to push this proposal through no matter what; keeping secrets and working to manipulate the public.

At Nebraska Farm Bureau we continue to work with our Congressional delegation and other partners to push back against this blatant overreach of power and disregard for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. There is much at stake not only in how we respond to the rule, but in the way EPA has conducted its business in this matter. I do know one thing. If EPA believes we’ll go away quietly I’d point them to another George Strait song; one that involves selling ocean front property…in Arizona.

Until Next Month,

Steve Nelson

President, Nebraska Farm Bureau

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