Senate Republicans meet with EPA’s McCarthy on regs

Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy to criticize the agency’s proposal to redefine its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a member of the Agriculture panel, said he also used the Tuesday meeting to criticize the EPA’s carbon emissions proposal for power plants.

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“The waters of the United States proposal and the agriculture interpretive rule are a source of uncertainty, anxiety and distrust for people in rural areas,” Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), the top Republican on the panel, said in a statement.

“This is particularly true for states like Mississippi whose economies are built on agriculture production and where landowners want the peace of mind that what they are doing is not subject to ever more regulations,” he said.

Cochran said he appreciated McCarthy’s decision to meet with the Republicans, and hoped it would spur her to withdraw the rule or rethink parts of it.

Cochran has sponsored legislation that would force the EPA to withdraw the rule. He and other Republicans fear that it would result in the EPA controlling ditches, ponds and puddles, which would make it difficult or impossible for farmers to carry out many common activities.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said McCarthy was happy to meet with the senators.

“That's why we have this comment period, which was extended until October, so we can hear directly from people about the proposed rule to protect our nation's water and we'll continue to have those conversation,” Purchia said.

She added that the waters of the United States would would not expand the EPA’s authority, and would actually benefit farmers by providing them more consistency and reliability with water regulations.

In his own statement, McConnell said he pushed McCarthy on the proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. He also asked that McCarthy schedule a public hearing on the rule in eastern Kentucky.

“You know what you are doing to my home state with your carbon emissions regulations,” McConnell told McCarthy, according to the statement. “There are no nearby hearings and Kentuckians feel as though you have no intentions of hearing from them. They tell me how angry they are, angry that you have made up your mind without listening to their concerns.”

McConnell consistently blasted the proposal even before it was unveiled in June, and said it would ruin the economy of Kentucky and other coal-heavy states. He’s pushed legislation to block the proposal, which he said is part of the administration’s “war on coal.”