U.S. Senator Pat Toomey expressed his concerns over a proposal that would change which waterways can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency with Cumberland County farmers Friday.
The Clean Water Act gives the EPA the right to regulate navigable bodies of water that flow between states. Toomey says the EPA proposal would dramatically expand that.
“The EPA's new rule would virtually make all outdoor water eligible for their regulation,” Toomey said. “What if a farmer has a stretch of land, that every once in a great while, in a very heavy rain, develops a big puddle that stands for awhile? Are they going to come in and decide to tell him whether or not he can plant in that space?”
“To the farmer, this is kind of concerning,” said Chris Toevs, of Future Farmers of America. “Does that mean more regulations, more permits, and in the end does that mean more money out of their pocket to adhere to these regulations?”
“I think they are overstepping their bounds. I don't think the law intended for them to regulate every piece of ground,” farmer Richard Maines said.
Toomey says the proposed changes could also affect builders.
“We are already regulated heavily, so another powerful organization from the national government coming in and telling everybody in Pennsylvania what they can and can't do is way too much, way out of control,” said Kevin Coutts, president of the Pennsylvania Builders Association.
State Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) also is against the proposed change.
“They are using this to grab authority over the way our farms and our land owners are able to operate on their own land,” Bloom said of the EPA.
Others disagree, saying the move will protect water quality.
“The Clean Water Act is supposed to cover all the waters of America,” said Nathan Sooy, of Clean Water Action.
Clean Water Action is one of the largest environmental groups in the nation with over one million members. More than 120,000 members are in Pennsylvania.
“Any tool that we can give our government for protecting our drinking water is good for America,” said Sooy. “We plan on getting 80,000 letters nationally to the EPA backing this decision.”
Toomey sent his on letter to the EPA asking them to withdraw the proposed regulation or give the public more time to review the plan, expanding it from 90 days to 180 days.