EPA creates final TMDL rule, but opponents win 14-month delay


WASHINGTON — President Clinton signed a bill July 13 that temporarily shields farmers from the controversial Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, environmental regulations. The U.S. EPA signed the final TMDL rule July 11. The rule change requires calculation of TMDLs of soil and other particles carried in water that washes across fields and forestry lands.

The Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2000 (H.R. 4425) includes a rider that bars the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the new TMDL rule during fiscal years 2000 or 2001.

“What this means is that the old rule will remain in place unless Congress in the future appropriates funds to implement this new rule or a different rule is proposed,” said Faith Burns, associate director of environmental issues for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The new rule mandates that EPA approve a state’s determination of which waterways are impaired and when and how they are cleaned. But opponents say the new TMDL rule takes away power from the states in determining which water bodies are impaired and that the rule lacks scientific basis and applies the same sweeping standards to all types of livestock producers in every part of the country.

Calling the EPA’s rule change “a public policy debacle,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, and Ranking Minority Member Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, have sharply criticized the EPA’s rule.

“EPA has mishandled this process from the beginning and continues to do so by going ahead with this rule change,” Combest and Stenholm said in a joint statement. “Their attempt to dodge responsibility by forcing a rule on the next president clearly shows a lack of confidence in the integrity of their own proposal.”

Congress originally designed Clean Water Act regulations to measure TMDLs only for point sources of pollution, such as specific industrial sites. However, last August, EPA proposed to apply TMDL calculations to non-point sources, such as general water runoff from forestry, farm and ranch lands.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.