GOP hounds EPA chief on regulations, asks whether spilled milk is next

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson came face to face with House Republicans Thursday for the first time since they voted to slash her budget and block funding for environmental regulations.

Jackson fielded aggressive questions about the agency’s regulations at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The topics ranged from the effects of the agency’s proposed climate rules to whether the agency would regulate spilled milk and dust. 

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“I believe EPA is headed in the wrong direction with an aggressive and overzealous regulatory agenda that far exceeds the authority it’s been granted,” full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) accused the EPA of trying to regulate spilled milk, even though the agency has consistently said it has no intentions of doing so.

“How can the EPA promulgate new rules like this?” Flake said. “What’s next — sippy cups in the House cafeteria?”

Jackson said Flake’s statements are “not accurate.” She said the agency moved to exempt milk storage from proposed regulations on inland oil containment facilities.

“The rule is for inland oil facilities that need containment to ensure our waterways are protected,” Jackson said. “We made it clear in our rules that we were not going to apply the rules to spilled milk.”

The hearing comes on the same day that House Republicans, with the backing of two top Democrats, plan to introduce legislation to permanently block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

The bill is part of a broad assault by Republicans in Congress on EPA climate rules. The House passed a spending bill last month that would prohibit funding for EPA climate rules through the end of September. 

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the subcommittee in charge of EPA’s budget, said, “It should be up to Congress, not the administration, to determine whether and how to regulate greenhouse gases.”

Simpson said the EPA is forcing burdensome requirements on the public that have little impact on health.

“They don’t feel like the EPA is working in concert with them to try to clean up the air and water — they feel like EPA is imposing on them sometimes with limited benefits,” Simpson said.

“Somehow, this administration has, whether deliberately or not, stumbled into a situation where it’s becoming very ideological and very partisan,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.

Cole warned Jackson that the “the political backlash” against EPA’s regulations “is real and it has consequences.”

He said farmers are worried that the agency will regulate dust as part of a course particulate matter standard.

“I’ve got a whole industry that worries they’re going to have a federal regime that they’ve never had to deal with before imposed on them,” he said.

But Jackson said the agency has taken no action to regulate dust. “There has been no regulatory change proposed on course particulate matter or dust,” Jackson said. “There has been absolutely no regulatory decision made.”

Jackson said EPA needs to communicate better with farmers so they don’t get false information about pending regulations. Many of the false perceptions about the agency “have to do with our ability to communicate what’s really going on inside the walls of the EPA with people who shouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about that,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, Democrats vowed to fight efforts by Republicans to limit the agency’s climate authority.

“I’m going to fight every step of the way against efforts to weaken and take back the environmental improvements we’ve made,” Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said.