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EPA Administrator Grilled by Senate Environment Committee

EPA Administrator Grilled by Senate Environment Committee

Senators question EPA regulations and attempts to expand water control.

The Senate Environment Committee took aim at the EPA Thursday over farm and other regulations as agency Administrator Lisa Jackson testified on EPA's 2013 budget request. The hearing came one day after a Supreme Court ruling in an Idaho wetlands case that Mike and Chantell Sackett can challenge the EPA in court over its order to halt development on their property.

Jackson assured Senate Environment Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., the agency would comply with the ruling, but Inhofe had other issues including an EPA end-run of Congress to vastly expand waters EPA controls.

Committee members have problem with EPA trying to expand control of water.

"It has turned out that this would be the most damaging thing in terms of ag," Inhofe said. "Farm Bureau and other groups like that have said this is something that is not livable and so consequently I was disappointed when we sent the guidance to OMB for final review."

Jackson responded that the Supreme Court did not deal with the separate issue of water jurisdiction that the EPA's dealing with through regulatory guidance.

"We have heard from a number of stakeholders around the country about the confusion that is resulting in a lack of protection on certain lands and in certain areas," Jackson said. "That is what the guidance, which has been out for public comment and is now in the process of being finalized."

Inhofe vowed to work with other Republicans to block the EPA's new guidance that the American Farm Bureau complains could give EPA power over even puddles. Inhofe challenged EPA's latest effort to force retailers to report when they custom-blend fertilizer for farmers.

"Even though the law exempts fertilizers held for sale to the ultimate consumers," Inhofe said. "Farmers don't buy their fertilizer from Wal-Mart, they have to be custom-blended, so technically that is selling to the ultimate consumer. I just want to get some kind of commitment that we are going to let them enjoy the exemption that is in the law right now."

Jackson was stumped, admitting she wasn't familiar with the issue, but would look into it. However, she defended her performance arguing she's signed fewer rules than her predecessor, that some resulted from court rulings and that health and job savings are significant.

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