The clean water fight puts spotlight on agency not up to the task | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 25, 2019

The clean water fight puts spotlight on agency not up to the task

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 7:27 AM

The Farm Bureau has assembled a mighty rural lobbying force to transfer regulation of liquid animal waste (pig manure particularly) from the Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which isn't always able to carry out its existing role in protecting natural resources.

The issues aren't directly relevant, I grant. But those saying ANRC is the place to regulate pig crap would do well to read Arkansas Democrat-Gazette outdoors writer Bryan Hendrix's column Sunday about Game and Fish Commission members unhappy about flooding in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area that threatens the timber there.

ANRC is a sponsor of a water management project there. Expensive infrastructure has been built but a local water distribution district has never gotten off the ground. With no income from that district, the ANRC can't do anything.

In Senate debate last week on SB 550, Sen. Keith Ingram highlighted one of many flaws in the takeover law — transparently intended to make life easier for factory hog farms. It is that the ANRC has no control over permitting. That will be up to local conservation districts. And if they aren't active protectors of natural resources, then what?

The water bill fight centers on the Buffalo River because it's a popular symbol. But the shift holds harm for water sources all over the state, particularly Northwest Arkansas, where lobbyists are attempting to get the largely Republican delegation riled about peril for Beaver Lake and other water sources.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has indicated his opposition to the move. He's been very successful in cutting taxes for rich people and increasing them for poor people. Can he overcome the Farm Bureau? The EPA has also sent signals that, even in the era of Trump, this effort to make life easier for hog farmers might run afoul of the clean water act.

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