Stop ranches from being treated as toxic waste dumps

By National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee hosted a hearing today, June 27, 2012, to deliberate on the “Superfund Common-Sense Act” introduced by Congressman Billy Long (R-Mo.) According to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander, the legislation (H.R. 2997) would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the courts from imposing what Alexander called expensive liability and needless regulation on U.S. agriculture.

NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald said the legislation would restore the original intent of Congress under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly called the Superfund Law, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

She said the Superfund Law was originally passed by Congress in 1980 to prevent toxic waste from polluting U.S. waters and was never intended to elevate extreme agendas by imposing liability on U.S. farmers and ranchers in the same fashion as toxic waste polluters. The legislation would exempt cattle manure from all liability under these laws.

“Congress never intended manure to fall under the jurisdiction of CERCLA. However, some activists groups and attorneys in Texas and Oklahoma have worked to increase the law’s reach by attempting to convince courts that livestock producers should be subject to CERCLA liability,” said McDonald. “Subjecting farmers and ranchers to CERCLA liability could place the financial burden of nutrient reduction for an entire watershed on a single producer. This kind of liability could easily reach into the many millions of dollars and bankrupt family farmers and ranchers.”

This legislation discussed today is identical to a bill (S. 1729) introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Alexander said both bills would amend CERCLA to provide that naturally occurring, organic manure and its nutrient components are not considered a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. He said NCBA strongly supports the legislation and considers the fact a hearing was held to discuss the legislation is a victory for cattlemen.

“In Washington, everything is one step at a time. This hearing is a very important step towards passing this legislation in the U.S. House. The hearing shows that regulatory relief may be within reach,” said Alexander. “We encourage the U.S. Senate to follow suit and move on S. 1729 as quickly as possible.”

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