Last week, Central Washington Representative Dan Newhouse hosted the Western Caucus foundation roundtable. The Fall Policy Roundtable: “When Agencies Weaponize Fake Science”, highlighted the ongoing struggles Northwest dairies face because of a controversial 2012 EPA report that looked at the role Yakima Valley dairies played in nitrate levels in local groundwater. A host of agricultural groups said the EPA’s tests and data were flawed in that report, and when questions about the accuracy of the report started to rise, the Region 10 EPA office refused to do a peer review, which is required by the EPA.
During last week’s roundtable, member of the local Ag community, as well as several western congressional leaders spoke with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s Chief of Staff Mandy Gunasekara about their concerns with the EPA report and the financial repercussions. Representative Newhouse said the EPA report has been used for years to cause great financial harm to the Washington dairy industry, and he finds it frustrating how little has been done over the past three years to help.
“I got to tell you, when the Trump Administration came in, we were very excited and very hopeful that we could finally have and agency that and individuals in the agency that would listen and we could make some real progress here. And we’ve made some, but I got to tell you that there’s some disappointment that we haven’t been able to get as far as we need to go.”
Newhouse added the dairy industry is not asking for anything unreasonable, and they are not asking for special treatment, but rather that sound science be used.
Jay Gordon, Policy Director at the Washington state Dairy Federation pointed out that despite these lawsuits, local farmers have worked hard to improve operations to reduce environmental impact.
“I can tell you these families have spent upwards of $22 million complying with EPA’s request based on this science. And it’s sad to think what we could have done with that $22 million, that has gone to consultants, and lawyers and literally a 8’-10’ tall stack of EPA reports that that need to be issued by these families monthly and quarterly.”
Gordon added the 2012 Nitrate report has already been used against 18 dairies, and more will likely be targeted.
Dan Wood Executive Director of the WSDF says they appreciate continued comments from D.C. assuring reforms at the EPA, but something needs to be done soon.
“But they won’t be able to enjoy those efforts if they can’t survive what still is a collaboration between environmental activists and EPA. And I don’t say that without great thought.”
Gunasekara stressed that the 2012 Nitrate Report is no longer the stance of the EPA, and conversations will take place in D.C. to address the concerns of the Northwest dairy industry.
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