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.


gccs14r 5 years, 10 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.

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 10 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!

Larrytown 5 years, 10 months ago

Huh....going from a water issue impacting KS/Gulf to talking about voter registration information in Florida?

You okay?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

What the ruling really means is that for every ineligible voter that gets stricken from the rolls, there will be many times more eligible voters stricken, but so close to the election, their votes will either not be cast, or not counted.

And that's precisely what the Republicans intend-- suppress the vote any way they can (and whip folks like you into ever further hysteria.)

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 10 months ago

Scott? Typical GOP right wing move-deflect from the topic at hand.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

You really should get better news sources. And a dictionary to look up "Marxist." It does not mean what you think it means.

Politico says as of three hours ago that this was something DHS allowed and not something they were ordered to do. They're allowing Florida to check against the DHS database for a match - but only if they've got a unique identifier like an alien registration # to go with it. No checking based on just name and date of birth.

Now, back to the actual topic of this article.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 10 months ago

chootspa, it's all in how you look at it. It sounds so much more dramatic to scream, "The Feds are being forced to turn over their data bases on non citizens!" then it is to say, "The DHHS are allowing the state of Florida to have access to their records." You see, the goal here is to make the Federal government "the enemy". Funny that.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 10 months ago

There you go, being sensible! But, I have to admit, this does scare me because in my mind I can see terrible times ahead if Obama is not reelected. There is a reason why gluttony is a deadly sin, and it is the root cause of the dead zone in the Gulf and the kind of fight the right wingers are waging.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

You know, Google really is your friend. It would have prevented you from embarrassing yourself twice. But then you did accuse Obama of being a marxist, so embarrassing yourself may just be your favorite hobby.

Florida was being sued by the Department of Justice to stop their voter purge 90 days before an election. That's where a federal judge ruled in favor of letting Florida proceed. The judge ruled that non-citizens could be removed from polls before an election, since they were never eligible to vote in the first place. Fair enough, but Florida was clearly removing citizens, too, and at a much higher number than any non-citizen allegedly fixin' to vote.

Florida did sue the DHS for access to the database, but no ruling was made in that suit. Instead, DHS decided that they'd let Florida check names against the database - if they had an alien# or other unique identifier. That's not the same as giving them the database, and it didn't happen because they were ordered to do so. Scott promptly declared "victory," but that's just spin. Not an actual court win.

If you want to assign motives and say that DHS is only allowing this because the DOJ lost the first case, fine. I suspect they just want to keep Florida's sloppy record keeping from purging more citizens from the polls. But that's an assumption, not a fact, and not a court order.

You were wrong and never bothered to verify your facts. Period. End of story.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

The LJW is a local newspaper and reports on events of local interest, not necessarily national news items. As soon as Kobach gets out his pitchfork brigade, they'll report about it. That will make it a story of local interest. I'm sure it will happen. In the mean time, you might want to take a few cold showers.

ivalueamerica 5 years, 10 months ago

off topic and a lie.

Your mother must be proud.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 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.

kernal 5 years, 10 months ago

How much money is Monsanto contributing to this endeavor?

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 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?

jaywalker 5 years, 10 months ago

You might benefit from actually reading the article.

msezdsit 5 years, 10 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.

John Hamm 5 years, 10 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?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

I dunno. Maybe some of us like the idea of a future with an intact environment more than we like the idea of a few short term gains in agribusiness. Move to China if you like it the other way around.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

Controlling overspray and runoff will not kill agribusiness. What will happen is that there will be erosion and runoff controll and tighter control of application of chemicals. This will prove to be a good thing for the farmers as well as for the rest of us.

I'm reminded of a situation at Boeing in Wichita when they were ordered to cut toxic emissions from their metal process line. Among other things, they installed covers over the dip vats. It was expensive to modify the vats, but instead of costing Boeing money, it saved them money--they reduced evaporative emissions by 2 million pounds per year, which meant that they didn't have to spend money to buy 2 million pounds of chemicals lost to the air each year. It was a win for Boeing and a win for the environment, but the EPA had to make Boeing do it.

jaywalker 5 years, 10 months ago

The most rational and well articulated post yet. Thank you.

I like where your head's at, but I"m wondering what could possibly be done w/ the current situation. Controlling emissions out of manufacturing plants has to be exponentially easier than controlling ground water; i'm not sure the latter's even possible.
Considering we're talking the Mississippi and all that run off, short of eliminating all sprays what else can be done?

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

Enhance and enforce setbacks from waterways and use berming and catchment.

For setbacks, use a tiered approach. No clearing within a certain number of feet, no plowing farther in, no fertilizer even farther in, and no pesticides or herbicides even farther in. As applied agents migrate toward the stream, the untreated crops will absorb the excess, and anything that makes it beyond the last plowed area will be absorbed by native plants before making it to the waterway. Berming between the plowed area and the native area will serve to catch large-scale movement of material in the event of heavy rain. For large operations, set aside areas for catchment so the material can be prevented from leaving the property. It can then be collected and treated as necessary.

There will need to be rules to prevent gaming the system. Small ops will end up being granted some exceptions because the percentage of cropland lost to remediation will end up being too high, but there needs to be a mechanism to keep a large corporate entity from transferring small plots along waterways to absentee owners to avoid the rules.

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 10 months ago

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

Joe Hyde 5 years, 10 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.

hedshrinker 5 years, 10 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.

pace 5 years, 10 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

Mike Ford 5 years, 10 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.....

Dan Eyler 5 years, 10 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.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

Why on earth are you talking about Florida??? Did you not read the article?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 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

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

And then you'll die along with the rest of us because you want to continue to crap in your own bed (which, unfortunately, we'll still have to share with you.)

Getaroom 5 years, 10 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.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 10 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.

Carmalee Winebrinner 5 years, 10 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!

Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

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

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