Environment
5:07 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Comer Criticizes EPA's Role in Floyds Fork Rehabilitation

Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture is worried that a process to map pollution in the Floyds Fork watershed could end up having lasting effects on agriculture policy.

James Comer expressed his concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency on Facebook and in a statewide agriculture newsletter. Here’s what he said on Facebook:

“Here comes my worst fear about the second term: Excessive, unnecessary EPA Regulations! Unlike most elected Republicans, I don't go around obsessed with bashing Obama; however, having had 2 meetings with high ranking EPA officials in Atlanta and seeing firsthand how inexperienced and biased they are towards agriculture and coal, I don't pass up any opportunities to tell the facts about how devastating the EPA will be to KY over the next 4 years. It's really sad to see so many of my fellow statewide officeholders proudly serving as delegates at the DNC to re-elect a President who will do so much damage to our signature industries.”

In an interview, Comer, a Republican, clarified that he is largely concerned about the process of setting a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or pollution diet, for the Floyds Fork watershed.

Comer says he’s worried regulators will interpret high levels of nutrients in the waterway as coming from agriculture and will use that to regulate pesticide use.

“I just want to make sure that we don’t wake up one day and there’s been an executive order passed by a federal agency in Atlanta that has no idea or appreciation of agriculture whatsoever and there are all of these unintended consequences,” he said.

So he’s using tobacco settlement money to contribute to water monitoring that will determine where the pollution comes from.

“When we get the results back for the source of the high levels of the nitrogen or phosphorus, if agriculture is the source, we want to fix it,” he said. “Because we don’t want to pollute the streams.”

Though the EPA is involved in the TMDL process, it’s being overseen by the Kentucky Division of Water. When the process is over, it could result in changes to permits for industrial facilities and sewage treatment plants. But the state is working on the TMDL under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, which doesn’t regulate agriculture.

The state also doesn’t impose limits on runoff from agriculture, but works with farmers to use best management practices to limit runoff.

Update: Tim Joice with the Kentucky Waterways Alliance has commented on Comer's comments below, and in a blog post here.