On November 9, 2017, Amy E. Romig, a partner at the law firm of Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, testified before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment. Ms. Romig testified in support of the agricultural industry while addressing the need for “H.R. ____, Farm Regulatory Certainty Act” (“Act”), supplementing testimony from Dan Wood, Executive Director, Washington State Diary Federation. Other parties testified in objection to the Act.
The Act would amend the citizen suit provisions of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) with respect to agricultural operations and prohibit citizen suits against an agricultural operation if the State or EPA is already involved with the agricultural operation. The law was prompted by a case in the State of Washington where several dairy operations entered into an extensive consent order with the EPA, yet then were subjected to an extensive and expensive citizen suit by neighbors. Due to the costly citizen lawsuit, several dairy operations were forced to file bankruptcy even though they had already agreed to the EPA’s demands to address the environmental situation. Ms. Romig testified that regulatory agencies commonly proceed under the Clean Water Act (CWA) when pursuing agriculture operators over farm waste because that law gives them complete jurisdiction over manure, whereas RCRA only has jurisdiction over manure that is not used as a fertilizer or soil conditioner. Ms. Romig explained a “catch-22” situation can result in these cases because agencies will often proceed under the CWA in enforcing environmental requirements for manure, while RCRA citizen suits are currently only prohibited if the agency is proceeding under RCRA or the Superfund law and such actions aren’t prohibited even if an agency is involved if that agency is proceeding under the CWA. If RCRA citizen suits are allowed to proceed, farms are subject to multiple lawsuits and potentially inconsistent requirements. The changes to the RCRA citizen suit provisions would benefit agricultural operations by providing the agricultural industry certainty when dealing with regulatory agencies and protect them from predatory citizen suit lawsuits. Please read more about Romig’s explanation of the “Catch 22” in Inside EPA’s article “Draft House RCRA Farm Waste Bill Draws Major Debate, Despite Revisions.”
If you would like to learn more about Amy’s testimony, the Act or the firm’s environmental practice, do not hesitate to contact her at (317) 637-0700 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to view the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee Press Release, or here to view the hearing.