Jackson responded that while misinformation campaigns often accuse the EPA of overreaching, dairies are indeed off the hook when it comes to designing plans for milk spills. In this case, she said, one of the latest claims about spilled milk regulations appeared in a that contained numerous inaccuracies. Mysteriously, she added, the newspaper has yet to publish a letter to the editor from her agency that corrects those errors.
A draft final exclusion exempting milk storage tanks from the spill rule is on file at the White House, Jackson said, and it will be acted upon this spring.
During a particularly nasty line of inquiry at the March 10 hearing, Illinois Republican Rep. Tim Johnson told Jackson that her agency has been "absolutely the poster child ... for usurpation of legislative authority."
When Johnson asked Jackson if she even had a background in agriculture, she deadpanned: "I eat food and I eat meat and I drink milk."
Both Carr and Parenteau pointed out that agribusiness is one of the least regulated entities on the environmental front. Corporate farms in the Corn Belt, they say, are terrified that the limited anti-pollution measures being asked of their Mid-Atlantic brethren via the Clean Water Act to help restore the Chesapeake Bay might be duplicated across the Midwest and Great Plains.
Getting Down to Business?
When Republicans gained a robust majority in the House after the November midterm election, everybody figured they'd be feeling their oats for a bit before perhaps buckling down to focus on jump-starting the economy and putting people back to work.
"No doubt they had to get that out of their system," Parenteau said. "But now they've indulged themselves and enough is enough. All they want to do is keep everybody in suspense about whether or not EPA is going to be around or not."
The contrast is exceedingly sharp between all of this sound-bite theater and an economic and environmental reality that demands sober and sensible leadership, he emphasized.
For instance, he pointed to a the agency released this month focusing on Clean Air Act benefits. Remarkably, it reveals that EPA regulations added to the books between 1990 and 2005 to whittle away at soot and smog pollutants will yield $2 trillion in benefits by 2020, mostly by preventing premature deaths.
"That report came out and pretty much disappeared," Parenteau said. "The public didn't hear any discussions and there were no oversight hearings. That's because House leadership doesn't want to make the connection to what EPA is accomplishing, and they ought to be called on that."
It's easier to bully the administrator about the minutiae of cow flatulence, he continued, than it is to have probing adult conversations about what slicing $3 billion from EPA's budget through the end of September would actually mean to the agency's ability to fulfill its mission.
Instead of spewing rhetoric, Parenteau asked, why isn't the House leadership asking the or to execute a cost-benefit analysis showing the American public exactly what, if any, impact proposed budget cuts will have.
"Lisa Jackson is not afraid of hard questions," he said. "They could make these hearings a fair exchange by asking her directly whether environmental protection is strengthening or weakening the economy."
Since the 112th Congress convened in January, Jackson has spent an inordinate amount of time testifying before congressional committees and subcommittees. Seven appearances thus far in February and March, according to an EPA spokeswoman, outnumber that of any federal leader considered part of the president’s cabinet.
Will Behavior Catch Up with GOP?