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Entries in EPA (38)

Thursday
Mar192015

Still No Plan to Address Susquehanna's Sick Smallmouth Bass

Despite evidence that smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are ill, state and federal officials refuse to categorize the waterway as “impaired.” And until it receives that designation, a plan can’t be developed to address the problem, which probably is pollution.

"We are absolutely certain that the smallmouth bass population of the middle Susquehanna River is sick, based upon the continuing presence of lesions and tumors in young and adult bass," said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fishing and Boating Commission (PFBC).

"We've been collecting data since 2005, and believe that these fish health issues are causing a decline in the population, which means the river is sick. It is not necessary to know the exact source or cause of the sickness before the Commonwealth declares the river as impaired."

Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in its decision to exclude nearly 100 miles of the Susquehanna in its 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.

In 2012, PFBC asked DEP to declare that section of the river from Sunbury to Holtwood Dam, near the Maryland border, as impaired. Both then and in 2014, DEP asserted that it lacked sufficient data to make that determination.

Now the earliest that the river could be declared impaired is 2016.

Update

Arway recently spoke to the game and fisheries committee of the state House of Representatives about this issue. According to Triblive.com, here's what happened:

He also continued his call to have the Susquehanna River officially declared “impaired.” Once the premier flowing smallmouth bass fishery on the East Coast, it's been in decline in recent years, with smallmouth bass populations shrinking and more and more fish showing up sick, he said.

The commission, state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency are doing a study to determine what's causing the problems, he said. A report is due by September.

After that, action needs to be taken, he said. Sick bass have been showing up since 2005, but no one's done anything but collect data since, Arway said.

An impaired designation would set the stage for a corrective plan, he added.

“We know the fish are sick. The (Department of Environmental Protection) admits the fish are sick. The question is, why are they sick and what are we going to do about it? And we haven't started down that road yet,” Arway said.




Thursday
Feb262015

Congress Stops Lead Ban Attempts for 2015

Congress stood solidly on the side of anglers and hunters late last year, as it specified in an appropriations bill that unwarranted regulation of fishing tackle and ammunition with lead components via the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would be banned during the 2015 fiscal year.

“We applaud Congressional leadership for protecting the nation’s 60 million anglers from unjustified restrictions on fishing equipment that anglers have safely used for decades,” said Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Section 425 of the $1.1 trillion bill states, “None of the funds made available by this or any other act may be used to regulate the lead content of ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle . . .”

But the fix is only temporary. Should Congress pass the Sportsmen’s Package Bill in 2015, which was derailed by last year’s Senate, the protection could become permanent.

During the past few years, environmental and other groups persistently have lobbied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban use of lead by anglers, hunters, and shooters.

“On multiple occasions, the Environmental Protection Agency has been petitioned by anti-fishing organizations to federally ban fishing tackle containing lead based on its impact on wildlife, a position that is not based on sound science,” Nussman added.

Monday
Feb092015

Senate Tries Again to Enact Sportsman's Act

Legislation beneficial to anglers has been introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators

"The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America's thriving outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

"The bipartisan Sportsman's Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  

"This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands."

The Sportman’s Act of 2015 includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the  Sportsmen's Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Importantly, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Also, the bill requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).

“This bipartisan package contains many important provisions that are largely non-controversial and that will advance fisheries conservation and recreational fishing access for the benefit of the nation’s 60 million anglers,” said American Sportfishing President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Recreational fishing supports 828,000 jobs and contributes $115 billion to the economy annually. This monumental legislative package will greatly enhance recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.”

Previous versions of the Sportsmen’s Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate in 2012 and 2014, primarily due to partisan disputes unrelated to the merits of the bill. With strong commitments from leadership on both sides of the aisle, ASA expressed optimism about the bill being enacted in the 114th Congress.

“Our community remains dedicated to the passage of the Sportsmen’s Act, and we are hopeful that the third time will be the charm,” said Nussman. “We want to give special thanks to Senators Murkowski and Heinrich and their staffs for swift bipartisan progress, and we look forward to working with them and the other original co-sponsors as this legislation goes through the committee process and ultimately to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Nussman added, “We believe the Sportsmen’s Act could be greatly strengthened by the addition of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. This bipartisan bill has strong support from the sportfishing community and it would bring tremendous value to the overall package by adding a much needed fisheries habitat component. ASA will actively support inclusion of this measure into the package during the coming legislative process.”

More information on Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, as well as an action alert to contact Senators in support of the bill, can be found at Keep America Fishing

Tuesday
Jan202015

Boaters Suffer Defeat in Ethanol Lawsuit

The damage done to outboard engines by ethanol was given little consideration recently, as the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia threw out a lawsuit that sought to force better labeling at pumps carrying ethanol mixtures of 15 percent (E15).

“E15 isn’t approved to be used in any marine engine and doesn’t work to the point of being toxic,” said Randy Pulley of Precision Marine in Goldsboro, N.C.

“E15 isn’t even approved for all automotive engines. We really don’t want it at all, but if it is going to be forced on us, gas pumps need to be labeled large and prominently to show it is not for marine and other small engines.”

Since its introduction, E10 has caused problems for thousands of boat owners, as it dissolves plastic parts and eats through hoses and other components in fuel systems. E15 will be even more destructive.

But the court ruled that the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the American Petroleum Institute, and others who brought the suit don’t have standing because they “cannot show members have suffered or are suffering with an injury that is traceable to the misfueling regulations.”  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved gasoline with 15 percent ethanol for use in cars year 2001 or newer.

“But while the agency prohibits its use in mowers and other power equipment, the EPA’s warning label on so-called blender pumps (carrying mixtures of 15 percent ethanol, E15, or higher), is easy to miss amid all the advertising and other labeling on the pump,” said Consumer Reports.

NMMA’s Nicole Vasilaros said that NMMA is not involved in additional curt cases regarding E15, but added that the organization is reviewing additional legal options to force EPA to better label and warn consumers about the dangerous of misfueling their outboards and other engines with E15.

Monday
Nov032014

Should We Support New CWA Rules? I'm Not So Sure . . . 

Some sportsmen groups support the new rules proposed for the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

For example, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, of which B.A.S.S. is a member, says this: “Sportsmen must speak up for strong, science-based protections for waters upon which America’s hunters and anglers rely. Tell the Army Corps and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) you support their efforts to clarify the Clean Water Act and urge them to finalize a rule that protects wetlands and headwater streams.”

I’m not so sure. For months I’ve argued with myself about this. Yes, I want to protect wetlands and headwater streams, but . . .

The original Clean Water Act was passed by our elected representatives and senators and signed into law by the President. It clearly was implemented with the best interests of the public and our aquatic resources in mind.

These rules were formulated by the EPA for the EPA. Public input was solicited, but no bureaucracy is going to institute rules detrimental to its own best interests. It’s going to create regulations that strengthen it and expand its powers.

And what recourse do citizens have in dealing with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who, more and more, are making the rules that we must live by? Not much.

EPA insists that these new rules simply “clarify” its regulatory role in protecting waters upstream of navigable waters. It needs to do so, it asserts, because of Supreme Court decisions that created uncertainty.

Critics of EPA and Corps overreach counter that those decisions reined in those agencies, which is why they now are proposing new rules.

I could present you with an almost endless list of testimonials from both sides, but I’ll keep it to a couple.

EPA’s Nancy Stoner says this:

“So EPA and the Corps are bringing clarity and consistency to the process, cutting red tape and saving money. The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule does not regulate new types of ditches, does not regulate activities on land, and does not apply to groundwater.”

Mike Freese, an attorney for the Oregon Farm Bureau counters:

“This is also going to affect counties, cities, home builders and land use anywhere near a waterway . . . The Clean Water Act will become a land management tool for federal agencies.”

If my decision to align with one side or the other were based only on the rules themselves, I’d probably side with the sportsmen groups and EPA. But it’s not.

There’s also interpretation and enforcement by the bureaucrats in those agencies, and the track record there is not good. Ask Mike and Chantell Sackett up in Idaho about that. After obtaining necessary local permits and consulting with the Corps, they were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Suddenly, federal officials showed up, demanding that they stop construction because their .63-acre lot is a protected wetland.

Seven years later, they’re still fighting for the right to build their home. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on their behalf, but its judgment said only that the couple has the right to seek judicial review in opposing the EPA.

Also in 2012, a top EPA official, Al Armendariz, resigned after a video surfaced of him making a speech in which is compared the agency’s enforcement strategy to Roman crucifixion.

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them.

“And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

More recently, bureaucrats in another agency have refused to cooperate with Congress on another water-related issue. The Interior Department ignored a subpoena to provide documents regarding this administration’s rewrite of the 2008 “Stream Buffer Zone Rule.”

"The administration's response to the committee's oversight efforts has been downright shameful. Their actions are unjustifiable and show blatant disrespect to the transparency they promised the American people,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Yes, we all want clean water.  And thanks to the original CWA we’ve made tremendous strides in improving water quality and fisheries. The question now is how to balance continued improvements with maintaining a government that is mindful of and respectful to its citizens and their rights.

(This was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)