Archive for Friday, July 28, 2000

EPA, Kansans to talk water

July 28, 2000


— Top-level federal regulators will visit Kansas to talk over controversial clean water rules with the governor, state lawmakers and other interested groups, Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Jerry Moran said.

The two Republicans met Thursday with Environmental Protection Agency officials, along with Rep. Jim Ryun, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jamie Clover Adams, the League of Kansas Municipalities and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Nothing was resolved about the Kansans' opposition to new federal water quality standards for Kansas that for the first time would be extended to privately owned lakes and some farm ponds. The confab came in advance of public hearings set for this fall in Topeka and Dodge City.

Moran said the meeting was congenial and that those involved want to reach some kind of consensus beforehand "and avoid, if possible, the ultimate shouting match that might occur."

During the meeting, the EPA's deputy assistant administrator for water, Diane Regas, agreed to meet in Kansas with Gov. Bill Graves, state legislators and others in the coming weeks. The cities group on Thursday presented estimates that Kansans could pay $100 million to enforce the proposed rules.

Two environmental groups -- the Kansas Sierra Club and Kansas Natural Resource Council -- sued to compel EPA to issue the new rules, saying the state inadequately enforced the federal Clean Water Act. The lawsuit was settled in May, but Roberts said EPA officials expect another Sierra Club lawsuit in the coming days.

"I would expect this will go on until early 2001," Roberts said. "I'd be surprised if this didn't end up in court on both sides."

Opponents say the EPA plan would force communities to spend millions of their own dollars to ensure that privately owned waters are clean enough for swimming. The EPA also wants to require the state to provide more documents to justify its decision to impose less strict standards on more than 1,400 lakes and streams.

Sen. Sam Brownback, another Republican, said the rules would force the same standards governing recreational waters on streams and ponds that dry up completely for parts of the year.

"With all the environmental challenges we face today, EPA should focus its attention on something more substantial, particularly when the outcome of these needless regulations would be to drive numerous farmers and ranchers out of business," Brownback said.

"We feel picked on," Roberts told reporters in a telephone conference call along with Moran, who said, "They're kicking us in the teeth."

EPA officials say Kansas was singled out because state law specifically exempts private waters. During Thursday's meeting, those involved talked about the possibility of state lawmakers considering a statutory change that would allow EPA to back out of its proposed rules.

Moran pointed out that Congress has options, too, as it considers related water quality issues. EPA moved July 11 to require states to develop new pollution control plans for dirty waterways, acting just days before legislation blocking such regulations can go into effect.

The regulations governing "Total Maximum Daily Loads," or TMDLs, would for the first time regulate runoff from non-point sources.

Public hearings will be held Sept. 13 in Topeka and Sept. 14 in Dodge City.

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