6 Vermont communities selected for ‘brownfield’ grants

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

6 Vermont communities selected for ‘brownfield’ grants.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation has announced that the U.S. CONWAY, Ark. (AP) — The city of Conway is being awarded a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the cleanup of a contaminated site.Residents of Scranton, Dunmore, the Midvalley and the Abingtons have been paying much higher sewer bills in recent years for a very good reason — to improve water quality in the Lackawanna River.To understand better why farmers and other rural folks are concerned, consider what the EPA itself says about its “historic step” in water regulation.

In essence, the article said that the E.P.A. had helped to manufacture public support for its proposed new drinking water rule in a way that may test the limits contained in federal lobbying rules. Supreme Court decisions, those hard-won, expensive gains could be negated by events upstream, where tributary streams and bodies of water that feed them might not come under the law’s jurisdiction. Or, if you are a farmer or other landowner, read this to mean the EPA — with support of the corps — is asserting authority over thousands of small streams and ponds, some ditches and even some dry land features that are wet only part of the year. According to a news release, the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission will receive $400,000; the Lamoille County Planning Commission will get $400,000; Brattleboro will get $400,000; the Northwest Regional Planning Commission will get $200,000; the Springfield Regional Development Corporation will get $200,000 for the Bryant Grinder site; and the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission in Woodstock will get $400,000.

At another point in its statement, the EPA says the new water rule “provides certainty in how far safeguards extend.” To which the private property owners reply: This is all well and good as long as you agree with the EPA’s judgment of what it should have authority to regulate. Peter Welch say the purpose of the competitive grant program is to allow the properties – usually former industrial sites – to be decontaminated and redeveloped in agreements with private investors.

The agency argues it has science on its side and, besides, it “held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country” and “reviewed over one million public comments.” Our bet is the agency is not providing a breakdown of these comments because much of rural America was strongly opposed. I kept waiting for the smoking gun, and as I got farther down the article all I got were more caveats that undermined the premise of the opening paragraphs. After hearing from Tom Reynolds, the E.P.A.’s Associate Administrator for External Affairs, who has called the story “erroneous,” and “sloppy,” I looked into the complaints.

But even beyond those benefits, they also help turn these community liabilities into job-creating and revenue-generating community assets.” According to the EPA, cumulative program investments since the start of the Brownfields Program in 1995 have leveraged more than $22 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. “This equates to an average of $17.79 leveraged per EPA Brownfield dollar expended,” according to the agency, adding these investments have resulted in the creation of about 105,942 jobs. Urging the public to endorse their proposed rule — and asking people explicitly to express this support by going to an E.P.A. webpage where they could click through to get to a place to comment on the rule and also explicitly asking people to go onto social networks to proclaim their support — that is classic grass-roots lobbying. Opponents of the new rule claim it adversely affects agriculture by expanding regulations to previously unregulated water used for irrigation and drainage.

It is known as “indirect lobbying,” as it creates the appearance of a groundswell of support — which elected officials then notice and react to. The rules will have far-reaching impact on how farmers and ranchers manage their operations, said Elizabeth Kohtz, president of the Twin Falls County Farm Bureau. “With the proposed permitting process, I can’t decide to raise cattle tomorrow, because I may need a permit to dig a hole for a fence,” said Kohtz, a Twin Falls dairy veterinarian. “And we know how fast the EPA works.” House Speaker John Boehner, however, declared the rules will send “landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.” The rules aim to clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left uncertain some aspects of the Clean Water Act. “I’m concerned the EPA did not truly listen or give consideration to the concerns farmers and ranchers… submitted during the comment period,” Kohtz said. These actions took place in coordination with environmental groups, like Sierra Club and N.R.D.C., which were “Thunderous Supporters,” of the Thunderclap campaign, as well as partners in other efforts we documented. The rule does not require any new permit of any agricultural enterprise, maintains current rules covering irrigation and specifically excludes water use relative to planting and harvesting crops and moving livestock.

It was not a “hit piece,” since it used moderate language, didn’t oversell its premise, and it gave the E.P.A. plenty of opportunity to defend itself.

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