Archive for Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Statehouse Live: Kansas attorney general fights environmental lawsuit over ‘dead zone’ in Gulf of Mexico

July 17, 2012


— Runoff from Kansas and many other states flows into the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico creating a dead zone that harms aquatic life.

Environmentalists are suing for federal restrictions to control the nutrient runoff from ranches, farms and sewage systems, but Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says those regulations would hurt agriculture.

On Monday, Schmidt announced he is seeking to intervene in the litigation filed in federal court in New Orleans.

“The decisions that will be made in that Louisiana courtroom have stark implications for production agriculture in Kansas,” Schmidt said. “Kansas has a keen interest in the outcome of this case, so we’re asking to be at the table to defend Kansas interests when the issues are presented and decided," he said.

Environmental groups, including the Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club, want the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, much of which comes from fertilizers. The nutrients stimulate algae growth, depleting oxygen levels in the water.

The dead zone, or low oxygen area, that forms in the Gulf of Mexico along the coast of Louisiana and Texas has ranged from 5,000 to 8,000 square miles and has an adverse effect on the $2.8 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to set numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. Currently, nutrient standards have been left to the states. Kansas and many use what is called a narrative criteria where bodies of water are classified as to what they should be able to maintain and what they shouldn’t have.

Schmidt said that system works.

“State governments and agricultural producers in the Mississippi River Basin have worked successfully for years to minimize nutrient runoff and will continue to do so,” Schmidt said. “Discarding state efforts in favor of a one-size-fits-all federal standard imposed by the EPA is unnecessary and would hurt Kansas agriculture and our state's economy," he said.

In addition to Kansas, the states seeking to join in the Louisiana litigation are Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. A number of agriculture groups also have intervened in the lawsuit.

Laura Calwell, Kansas riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw, said, "Nutrients are becoming a bigger and bigger problem," and she noted that Milford Reservoir was closed to recreation during the Labor Day weekend last year because of an algae bloom.

In 2010, Friends of the Kaw — Kaw is the nickname of the 173-mile Kansas River — notified the EPA that it intended to sue for tougher water quality standards. But then the organization decided not to purse litigation because of the political climate, Calwell said, citing the recession and the 2010 elections, which produced a more conservative Congress and state Legislature.

Calwell disagreed with Schmidt's statement that the states can handle the issue and supports the lawsuit filed in Louisiana.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 9 months ago

The waters and the air 'belong' to all of us and we are all responsible.


Carmalee Winebrinner 1 year, 9 months ago

So Schmidt thinks self-regulation works?

The same runoff creating a dead zone in the Gulf is also feeding that wonderful blue-green algae bloom contaminating our reservoirs and poisoning our water supply.

Marion County Reservoir has been fighting this algae for nearly a decade, allowing vegetation to grow along the shoreline, and actually digging a pond for a rancher on the north end of the lake, so his cattle can be fenced off from the lake that was their single source of water. But the contamination is still occurring.

Chemicals running off our fields are a waste of money. If our KU School of Agriculture would undertake a study to find the balance point between reducing fertilizer runoff and maximizing yield, farmers would look at the self-regulation differently; they would put in their own buffer zones, or implement a better way to apply the fertilizer so it would actually stay on the field, thus decreasing their costs per acre.

Buffer zones may take part of the acreage, but at least then we can use our reservoirs as water sources and not spend excessive amounts of money to have drinkable water. Not to mention that we can then swim in the reservoirs and not worry about getting sick!


Patricia Davis 1 year, 9 months ago

Can Kansas get any more backward? We have the opportunity to implement wise stewardship of our land and waterways. But what do we do? Can't get enough freedom to dump whatever we want to; can't throw enough fertilizers on our fields to grow more food that is bad for us.

Crazy making stuff.


Les Blevins 1 year, 9 months ago

Jaywalker writes; "Considering we're talking the Mississippi and all that run off, short of eliminating all sprays what else can be done?"

The answer lies in adjusting our energy, food and fuel generation model. I see over half of the nation is in a record setting drought due to global warming and climate change. This is changing our overall situation in a really bad way because we refuse to change it in a good way. Planting buffer strips along the state's water courses would provide fuel for production of biofuels and generation of electric power and act as huge sponges when the heavy rains come that overwhelm conservation terraces and wash both farm soils and farm chemicals into the streams and silt in all the reservoirs, and if the reservoirs don't catch it the rivers do causing the problem in the Gulf.


Getaroom 1 year, 9 months ago

Whomever ever is causing it, it should be everyones concern. If the EPA does not regulate such things, who will? The tooth fairy? Oh, I forgot, The BIG BAD EPA is evil because it's BIG GOV.! Look, we are losing ground all the way around. The environment is suffering worldwide because the only interest is in profit taking now and to hell with later. But with an average 5th grade education overall in the USA it's pretty easy to pull the wool over this populations eyes. More Kansas stupidity from the Kansas attorney generals office, a fully owned and operated susidiary of The Brownbackward Corp.


mikekt 1 year, 9 months ago

I am not convinced that asking, or regulating farmers, to better control the run off of fertilizers, etc., is going to break Kansas Agriculture.

Most likely, it's a hand full of really bad apples across the midwest that just over do it with fertilizers & i am not convinced that because some at K-Staters do a good job of farming, that their tech. is universally applied, everywhere, by all !

Heck,.....there are lots of people in O.P., that fertilize & weed control the hell out of their lawns, water it..... & mow it every 6 days....... & much of that fertilizer etc., probably washes off into storm sewers & off into streams & off to the Gulf of Mex..!

This may not be farmers but urban run off from areas where people needlessly over do it !

Of course, we won't know where it is from until we are forced to pay attention to it.

Had an Aunt & Uncle who had property with a lake outside of Salina that went to hell, when a small group of homes went in next to their property & the run off started flowing down hill & into the lake! Wasn't from the farmer who was there before. These were home owners who got crazy with chemicals & made a mess !

It used to be that people could dump PCBs into the rivers & who cared or went broke when they stopped that but PCB manufacturers?

I didn't hear anybody say "No Fertilizer"?


tennesseerader 1 year, 9 months ago

Do you liberal idiots want to eat? You stop modern agriculture and all of us will starve. Just like what you are doing to energy production and manufacturing. I think it is time for the red states to secede and leave to blue states to starve and freeze in the dark.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

The Kansas River is dead why would the Gulf of Mexico want dead water?

Toxic poison comes from up stream and runs into the Gulf of Mexico. Hmmmmmmm


Dan Eyler 1 year, 9 months ago

Kansas is the heart of the effort to feed not only our nation but the rest of the world as well. With ever growing effort to increase food production we have learned through the efforts of our great agricultural university, Kansas State, a great deal in crop management and best practice for minimizing the use of chemicals and maximizing agricultural production. Kansans are leaders in agribusiness and has transformed food production worldwide saving people from starvation and very cheaply. So states such as Florida who want to sue states such as Kansas whose runoff flows into the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico we say to you; no way. Florida has devastated The Everglades by mismanagement to the point that one of the nations most beautiful landscapes is trashed. We don't take our marching orders from organizations that don't clean their own house before messing in ours. So Kansans who have give so much to the world can put their heads on their pillows at night and sleep. To treat our state as though we are a bunch of dumb-asses as so many in Lawrence seem to think, you sure as heck don't know our history and to treat the farmers of this state like they are some type of criminal is nearly fighting words. We are learning quickly better ways to farm either big or small, and we are not going to tolerate EPA punishing our farmers for feeding the world for the past 100 years.


Mike Ford 1 year, 9 months ago

I grew up in southern Louisiana and when oil spills, hurricanes, and deals with the petrochemical devil aren't messing up the land, atrazine and fertilizer laced water takes the oxygen out of the water creating this dead zone as all of the midwest agricultural runoff goes down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. The GOP.....we will screw up everything and you can't make us stop..... regulations are for people with brains....not pawns of industry.....right Derek Schmidt.....


pace 1 year, 9 months ago

While they defend their right to pollute as god intended, they ignore ballooning internet crimes against Kansans. The AG and the state don't care if fraud or theft occurs. they want to drive law to privatized corporations. Shame.

Clean coal is a bizarre sell, Drinking my water from the Kaw, Hey I am a risk taker. They do not check for most pesticides,and other common farm chemicals. testing for pesticides can be very expensive


hedshrinker 1 year, 9 months ago

Kansas citizen and especially business interests cannot be narrowly separated from the far-reaching impacts downstream of their policies and actions. This awareness of our incredibly shrinking global reality is THE issue of the 21st century. Schmidt and his Repub cohorts are all about deregulation and destroying any clout the EPA might have b/c that's what their corporate handlers want. That's why many of these environmental issues must be dealt with on the national and international level; unfortunately even at that level, the US is notorious for non-participation in global efforts like Kyoto protocols, etc. Even animals know better than to foul their own nests.


Joe Hyde 1 year, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, the problem of environmental "dead zones" (or near-dead zones) is not restricted to, or unique to, the Gulf of Mexico. Many threatened aquatic ecosystems in America need protecting, conserving and ultimately repair in order for us to maximize the human benefits potentially gained if pre-Industrial Age environmental conditions could be restored by human efforts.

By "all", I mean all U.S. citizens.

If the Gulf gets cleaned up, profits from Gulf fishing businesses will rise, with significant impact to the US economy. And guess what? Because we in Kansas helped make that clean-up happen, it means we've tweaked our state's production methods to the extent we've greatly reduced the self-contamination of our own surface waters. Such a profound improvement only means good things for all Kansans.

Everybody + Getting It Done Right = Federal agency direction and control. The states will retain their input and influence, just like all other joint state/federal operations.

We ever get the Gulf's fishery back up near factory specs, we'll be the cause of and witnesses to an environmental/economic miracle. Life'll get to be a lot more fun, too.


BABBOY 1 year, 9 months ago

I am no supporter of Derek Schmidt. Dude is a total door knob geek that got elected by trashing Obama and not on any substance of his own.

But, this lawsuit affects Kansas and he is doing his job by intervening. I am not sure he will represent Kansas all that well however and will somehow find a political angle to benefit himself.

Picture of the dead fish is pretty good yellow journalism and I give the ljworld a thumbs for that one......


Jayhawk1958 1 year, 9 months ago

Lack of birth control and religions like Catholism which is against any form of birth control and abortion.


toe 1 year, 9 months ago

Our only problem is overpopulation. Half the worlds population needs to go away. This could be done if regulation of food, water, and air raises the cost so that only about half the population could afford to live. I guess reduced crop yields is a start.


OonlyBonly 1 year, 9 months ago

I honestly cannot believe the majority of the comments on this topic. Here's a potentially agribusiness in Kansas killing lawsuit and you folks think we're the only culprits or should totally stay out of it or blame our diets for our deaths. What in the name of God is wrong with you folks?


msezdsit 1 year, 9 months ago

Polluting Kansas should be left up to the state, even when it is found to be polluting the entire country and a few oceans as well. Does Kansas have jurisdiction over the Gulf of Mexico? Don't really matter to our boy Derek. Whats good for Kansas is good for everybody. At least the wingers are convinced.


Thomas Bryce 1 year, 9 months ago

Why are our lawmakers spending so much time on the affairs of other states? Are you done here? if so, please resign and move on so we can get some one in there that cares about Kansas and its citizens. Kansas probably is responsible for some of the runoff problems due to agriculture. Why don' you worry about that here in Kansas where your Job is?


kernal 1 year, 9 months ago

How much money is Monsanto contributing to this endeavor?


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

The only way the US can continue its all-meat diet is if petroleum-based factory ranching and feedlots can continue unabated, which means an ever-expanding dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.


bigtoe 1 year, 9 months ago

Hey Scott - I thought surely you would have done a full page article for today announcing the good news that the Federal Court in Florida has ordered Janet Incompentano to turn over all the Feds records on non-citizens (legal and illegal) living in the US so that Florida can check its records against it and remove them from its registered voter roles.

You know Kobach and the other states that want it will be getting that list next and this ruling is going to cost Obama and his fellow Marxists in Congress. Most particularly they're going to lose out on the hoped for votes of the "dream act" illegals (they're all on the list) he and the Marrxists were certain a bunch of which could get away with illegally registering/voting Democrat.

Ain't life great?


Jayhawk1958 1 year, 9 months ago

If govt. leadership of states want independent control then go knock yourself out. You will be responsible for your own social security, military, tax collections services (IRS), etc.. Then watch you come crawling back to the federal govt. for assistance. States only want control over special interests that affects their state. You can't have your cake and eat it too!


Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 9 months ago

DS will never b e as good as Carla Stovall! She set the bar pretty high.

DS, I also know that there are increased incidences of cancer on those chemical=laden areas you are foolishly representing, like Northern Kansas, where the corn is. People are dying because of farming pollution.

So what we have here is agend-laden people who force us to have babies we don't want, citing life-issues. Then in anti-Life fashion, they turn around and let industry kills us with slow, painful death from the cancer they are allowing to rain (alegorical) upon us by the United Corporate States Of America. Neither contradiction-saturated GOP agenda is convincing.

I am conservative in the classical sense of the term, not the present political sense of the term,... conservative in all things. Conserve money. Conserve resources. Conserve SOIL!!

Conserve your non-Kansas agenda-laden politics.


Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 9 months ago

Hey YOU, stay in Kansas and leave the rest of the country alone. We have empty rivers in W. Kansas that you should be addressing, dummy!!! We have lots of things to take up your time here,


defenestrator 1 year, 9 months ago

Kansas' interests may very well be at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

But, in case they're not, keep on spraying the petro-chemicals that keep the corporate farming/military/industrial complex churning away!


gccs14r 1 year, 9 months ago

Our rivers are polluted and we should already be imposing stricter runoff standards. Since the state of Kansas won't do it on its own, I welcome Federal standards to force us to do it.


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