WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 by a vote of 95 to 3. The bill will help ensure safe and reliable water infrastructure for communities in Nebraska and across the country. It also includes a bipartisan provision, negotiated by U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), which would modify costly EPA regulations that could negatively affect agriculture producers with on-farm fuel storage.
Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement:
“This legislation will provide communities in Nebraska with increased flexibility as they work to protect our state’s precious water resources. During the legislative process, I worked closely with my colleagues on the EPW Committee to eliminate unnecessary burdens affecting our state’s agriculture producers who use on-farm fuel storage. I was firm on providing exemptions that would limit harmful federal regulations on our farmers and ranchers who feed a hungry world. I am pleased to see this language included in the final bill.”
WRDA 2016 included language Senator Fischer advocated that provides producers with a limited exemption from the EPA’s Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule. These EPA regulations, which were originally designed for major oil refineries, would have required farmers and ranchers who have on-farm fuel storage to make costly structural upgrades to their facilities. These mandates would have been in effect regardless of the threats posed to water quality.
The WRDA 2016 bill rolls back these regulations by:
- Fully exempting animal feed storage tanks from the SPCC rule, both in terms of aggregate storage and single-tank storage.
- Providing greater flexibility by exempting up to 2,000 gallons of capacity on remote or separate parcels of land (as long as these tanks are not larger than 1,000 gallons each).
In addition to providing regulatory relief for Nebraska producers, WRDA includes several other important provisions that empower local communities to manage and protect water by:
- Including reform for state municipalities, like those in Omaha, that are struggling with unfunded combined sewer overflow mandates.
- Providing greater flexibility for local, non-federal stakeholders. For example, Natural Resource Districts will be allowed to fund feasibility studies and receive reimbursement during project construction, instead of waiting until a project is completed.
- Eliminating the EPA’s flawed Median Household Income affordability measurement, which hurts fixed and low-income families.