EPA hearing focuses on whether state Ag Department should have regulatory role
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
10/24/12 at 3:28 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A public hearing is set for Thursday as part of the state Agriculture Department's efforts to assume the EPA's role in permitting concentrated animal feeding operations and other agricultural activities.
Oklahoma would be the only state in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6 and possibly in the nation to have an agricultural agency - the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry - take over the regulatory role if its application to administer a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program is approved.
Region 6 includes Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Gov. Mary Fallin is seeking approval of a state Agricultural Pollutant Discharge Elimination System under the Clean Water Act of 1972.
Besides concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, the Agriculture Department would regulate discharges from biological or chemical pesticides, discharges resulting from silviculture activities, and point-source discharges of stormwater from agricultural activities.
Two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Save the Illinois River, oppose the application and have submitted more than 100 comments opposing it.
"Oklahoma's water is our state's most precious resource," said David Ocamb, director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a statement released Tuesday.
"One of the biggest threats to water quality in our state is discharge from large industrial feeding operations. The stakes are too high to not have an impartial body evaluate these permits."
Denise Hamilton, the EPA's oversight coordinator for national pollutant discharge elimination systems, said the EPA actually encourages tribes and states to take on their own programs.
"They estimate they will add eight staff positions to run the program, as well as using existing compliance enforcement," Hamilton said.
Fallin spokesman Aaron Cooper said the Legislature appropriated $673,583 for the program in 2009 and that the process for the change has been in the works since 1994.
Hamilton said the EPA will evaluate whether Oklahoma meets the requirements to operate the program and should make a decision by Dec. 6.
EPA public hearing
What: EPA public hearing on proposed program authorization
When: Thursday. Question-and-answer session starts at 6 p.m. followed by public hearing for comments at 7 p.m. Written, but not oral, comments for the official record will be accepted at the public meeting.
Where: Metro Technology Centers, Springlake Campus, Business Conference Center, Auditorium, 1900 Springlake Drive, Oklahoma City
Original Print Headline: Ag officials seeking regulatory role; hearing set
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381