March 06, 2001 11:00 pm
Sen. Gordon Smith ().
Sen. Gordon Smith ().

WASHINGTON U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., asked the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to review enforcement policies relating to provisions of the Clean Water Act affecting cattle ranches.

Increased enforcement activities over the past year have led many ranchers in Eastern Oregon to complain of heavy-handed treatment by the EPA, Smith said.

I am a strong supporter of the Clean Water Act and believe all Oregonians have an important responsibility to ensure our waters are made cleaner for future generations, Smith said.

To meet this challenge I believe it is essential that the EPA cooperatively engage landowners and other constituencies so that they have an opportunity to correct identified problems.

Recent concerns about the differing definitions and standards for Confined Animal Feeding Operations used by state officials has led the EPA to increase its scrutiny of Oregon ranches many of which are small, family-owned operations.

These enforcement activities resulted in substantial fines levied late last year by the EPA against feedlot operators in Wallowa County.

Surprise inspections followed by heavy fines especially against those who are making a good-faith effort to comply with the law should not be the actions of first resort for any federal agency, Smith said.

Instead of promoting cooperative solutions to environmental problems, the past administrations enforcement of EPA rules seriously eroded the reputation of the agency within the rural communities of my state and made it more difficult for ranchers to work with the federal government.

Sen. Smith asked the Bush administration to ensure that ranchers receive fair warning before being issued fines and that a hold be put on current fine collections until the requested review is completed. He also asked that the EPA commit to working with state officials to find a constructive resolution to enforcement issues. Recent reports suggest that the EPA has renewed aerial inspections of ranches in Eastern Oregon.