WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) yesterday questioned whether the Environmental Protection Agency can be more cooperative in dealing with other agencies when assessing environmental matters related to forests and flood control projects.
Cochran participated in a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the FY2015 budget request for the EPA. Cochran offered questions regarding implementation of a 2014 farm bill provision, which restricts EPA’s ability to enforce costly and burdensome regulations on forest roads as a source of pollution, as well as potential environmental review delays on flood control projects.
Cochran sought assurances from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that her agency will follow congressional intent of the 2014 farm bill provision that amends the Clean Water Act to reaffirm the agency’s long-standing policy that storm water runoff permits are not required for forest-related activities. The farm bill changes were included in the bill to provide certainty to private forest landowners and the forest product industry that EPA shall not use discretionary authority to regulate forest roads as a “point source” of pollution.
“We are all interested in maintaining forest health in Mississippi and elsewhere, but I want assurances that the law will be followed and that the EPA won’t take steps to restrict the use of forest roads,” Cochran said.
Cochran also submitted inquiries to McCarthy related to EPA willingness to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Rankin-Hinds Drainage Control District to assist with the environmental reviews and requirements for needed flood control projects.
“Gov. Phil Bryant’s emergency declaration in 12 counties due to severe rain and flooding in the Pearl River Basin once again highlights the EPA’s role in the decades-long effort to develop more effective flood control for Jackson,” Cochran said. “Our capital city and others within the Pearl River flood zone would benefit greatly from an EPA that does not represent an impediment to protecting lives and property.”