State Ag Commissioner Addresses Reinstatement of Fire Equipment Program and 'Waters of the US'Fri, 11 Jul 2014 05:54:13 CDT
Rural fire departments once again have access to military vechiles that can be retrofited into fire fighting equipment, according to Oklahoma State Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Reece. On Wednesday it was announced the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense reached an agreement that will allow local fire and law enforcement agencies to continue to receive surplus military equipment.
"It is a significant win," Reece said. "Just out of the blue, they shut down the program and some people thought we were exaggerating, but they shut down the program down."
"They were not allowing us to have any vehicles and where we get $15 million dollars of vehicles every year to distribute to rural fire departments across the state, its a very significant impact," he said.
Reece commended the efforts of US Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman Frank Lucas and the rest of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation to turn effort around and again allow rural fire departments to get this surplus equipment which is used to fight wildfires. Click on the LISTEN BAR below as Jim Reece and Farm Director Ron Hays talk about this battle over the military surplus program- Reese and Hays also talked about the Waters of the US Proposed Rule and the status of agriculture here in the state at the midway point for summer 2014.
IN ADDITION- Jim Reese will be Ron's guest on Saturday morning for his regular In the Field feature on the Saturday morning news on KWTV, News9 in Oklahoma City at about 6:40 AM.
Regarding the battle over the military equipment being used at the state level- "The bureaucracy doesn't move that quickly very often," Reece said. "For sure in a matter of two weeks at a maximum they turned that decision around."
This equipment often times sits in storage until a fire or natural disaster when this equipment needed. Reece says the equipment can be very specialized while other pieces like trailers are often times retrofitted in stead of buying new equipment, which can save government agencies thousands of dollars.
Waters of the US Proposed Rule
Earlier this week, Reece along with Michael Teague, the state secretary of energy environment hosted Region 6 Environmental Protection Agency officials in Oklahoma City. The group met with leaders of agricultural organizations to hear their concerns about the 'Waters of the US' proposal and interpretative rule. Reece says the biggest concern with the rule is how the rule is written.
"It appears, its written to show agriculture is exempted, but in reality there is a provision that says 'other waters' as determined by on a case by basis, that would be EPA and prove to be significant nexus to other waters and that is going to be determined by EPA," Reece said. "So in the end, despite all the exemptions, you still have EPA making all the determinations of what is a water and I would argue any water that would fall on the great earth would be declared, inside the United States, would be declared a water."
The rule has all these exemptions, but the ultimate decision would be EPA's decision. In a previous conference call with EPA with othger State Secretaries of Agriculture, Reece says he posed several different situations, where EPA replied "no" that wouldn't apply, but it could. He says those words" but it could" is very concerning.
"I would assume, you know they would start out and approve most of the exemptions," Reece said. "Eventually over time you know how that crawl begins, eventually they would continue crawl into private property space and determine that your waters is their's."
The representatives expressed their dissatisfaction with the rule and expressed their desire to have this rule pulled. Reece looks for that sentiment to be expressed throughout the nation.
"It is a power play by EPA to get all of the waters of the US under their jurisdiction," Reece said. "You know, it's not true that the state can't govern pollution on our waters."
"If you pour any kind of chemical fertilizer or pesticide in a ditch anywhere in Oklahoma, you can be prosecuted, you can be fined, you can be made to clean it up," he said.
Reece says there is a document on EPA's website that says the reason they are pushing this effort is because states don't have any authority. Reece says that is simply not true. He says just last month, a Oklahoma landowner had to spent $11 thousand dollars to clean up a spill.
"So to say we don't have any authority is just not true," Reece said.
WebReadyTM Powered by WireReady® NSI
Top Agricultural News