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Archive for Friday, March 30, 2001

KDHE leader wants veto of water bill

March 30, 2001

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— After state and federal officials reached agreement on water quality regulation this week, legislators approved a bill on the same issue, saying the two are compatible.

But state Health and Environment Secretary Clyde Graeber has asked Gov. Bill Graves to veto the bill.

Graves said Thursday he hasn't decided what he will do with the bill he received Tuesday, one day after the state announced an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Both the bill and the state-federal agreement establish a process for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to reclassify streams for different pollution purposes.

Graeber said the legislation was unnecessary and would make it harder for his agency to comply with the agreement.

Graves said Thursday he wanted to "find out what EPA's take is on the bill, how they feel about whether it's complimentary or not or needed or not."

At issue are 1,456 lakes and streams the EPA says should be clean enough for boating and swimming, meaning the state would have to restrict the amount of sewage in them.

The state says those streams and lakes don't have to be safe for swimming. On Monday, the EPA agreed the water could keep its current classification until the state can complete testing the streams and lakes.

The bill imposes different standards for different streams and exempts low-flowing streams and dry stream beds from regulation.

Agricultural groups who back the bill have said that without it they will be forced to put fences around streams that carry little or no water most of the year.

Meanwhile, the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club and Kansas Natural Resource Council rejected an EPA settlement offer extended Tuesday.

Charles Benjamin, a Lawrence attorney representing the Sierra Club, said the environmental groups would proceed with a federal lawsuit they filed against the EPA in December.

Federal law requires the EPA to put water quality standards in effect within 90 days of their publication, Benjamin said. The EPA published proposed regulations for Kansas on July 3.

"That did not happen," Benjamin said. "It is a very simple legal issue."

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