TOPEKA – (July 16, 2012) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt late last week asked a federal court in Louisiana to let Kansas participate in a pending lawsuit that threatens to impose new environmental regulations on Kansas farmers and ranchers.
Schmidt on Friday asked the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in New Orleans, to allow Kansas to intervene in a suit brought by environmental organizations that want to force the United States Environmental Protection Agency to implement new, burdensome runoff regulations on land in the Mississippi River Basin. If successful, the lawsuit could result in new regulations on runoff from farms and ranches in Kansas as well as additional requirements for Kansas municipalities.
“The decisions that will be made in that Louisiana courtroom have stark implications for production agriculture in Kansas,” Schmidt said. “Kansas has a keen interest in the outcome of this case, so we’re asking to be at the table to defend Kansas interests when the issues are presented and decided.”
In a joint filing with the attorneys general of nine other states, Schmidt is seeking to intervene in the Louisiana litigation to prevent EPA from establishing federal numeric nutrient water quality standards – known as total maximum daily loads, or “TMDLs” – for all states in the Mississippi River Basin. The result of the lawsuit could be significant for farmers, municipalities and others throughout the 31-state basin because numeric nutrient standards could lead to more costly and stringent limits on nutrient runoff to the many rivers and streams that ultimately flow into the Mississippi River.
“State governments and agricultural producers in the Mississippi River Basin have worked successfully for years to minimize nutrient runoff and will continue to do so,” Schmidt said. “Discarding state efforts in favor of a one-size-fits-all federal standard imposed by the EPA is unnecessary and would hurt Kansas agriculture and our state's economy.”
Under the federal Clean Water Act, states may use either “narrative” or “numeric” standards as a method for determining water quality. Most states in the Mississippi River Basin use narrative standards, such as "no nutrients at levels that cause a harmful imbalance of aquatic populations." However, if the environmental groups are successful in the Louisiana lawsuit, EPA would be forced by the Court to override existing state standards with federal water quality standards and to express those standards as specific numeric limits on nutrients.
In addition to Kansas, the states seeking to join in the Louisiana litigation are Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The case is Gulf Restoration Network v. Jackson.