The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday held a hearing on the confirmation of Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency after the departure of former administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this year.
McCarthy's nomination and potential confirmation is a big issue for agriculture, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says, because of the industry's previous clashes with the agency regarding several regulations.
"Whether it is releasing producers' personal information to activist groups or trying to regulate all ponds and puddles across the U.S., EPA has not worked cooperatively with the cattle industry under the current administration," said NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald. "We sincerely hope Ms. McCarthy, if confirmed by the Senate, would work to improve this relationship which will ultimately have a more positive impact on the environment than the current anti-agriculture attitude that is prolific within the agency."
During the hearing, McCarthy, who is currently the head of EPA's air office, was questioned on issues such as the Spill Prevention Control and Counter measure rule and whether she would commit to not creating a national database with information on agricultural operations around the country.
Many of the questions were asked by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., who made known her concerns about the proposed Clean Water Act expansion, an issue at the top of the list for many farmers and ranchers.
Fischer also urged McCarthy and the EPA to ensure that regulations are made on sound publicly available science subject to a thorough analysis.
"We have bridges to build with the farming community," McCarthy said during the hearing, also saying, "I'm a meat eater myself."
However, McCarthy would not commit to supporting the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act, which was recently introduced in the House and Senate to ease the SPCC regulations.
Currently, the SPCC regulation enters into force May 10, though funding to enforce the rule was removed by HR 933, the Continuing Resolution. That legislation remains in effect until Sept. 30, 2013.
McCarthy also could not commit to not creating a national database which would make producer information publicly available and readily searchable through EPA's website. Following the release and eventual return of CAFO info that was obtained by activist groups through a Freedom of Information Act, some ag groups are a bit concerned about future regulations.
McDonald McCarthy's position on both issues calls into question whether she truly wants to build relationships with the agricultural community.