Grass & Grain

08-26-2014

Agricultural Newspaper

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The Government Ac- countability Office (GAO) released a report recently concluding that information incorporated into EPA's Regulatory Impact Analy- ses (RIA) of proposed rules lacked transparency. Addi- tionally, the GAO found that the agency did not al- ways monetize the costs and benefits of proposed actions and that the EPA had estimated effects of its regulations on employment by, in part, using a study that is more than two decades old. "Without improvements in its estimates, EPA's RIAs may be limited in their use- fulness for helping deci- sion- makers and the public understand these important effects," the GAO conclud- ed. The report examined seven EPA regulations des- ignated as "major rules," those with an annual eco- nomic impact of $100 mil- lion or more. The GAO ex- amined EPA's analyses for each rule against 2003 guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that lays out best practices for how agencies should evaluate the costs and benefits of rules mak- ing their way through the federal pipeline. "Specifi- cally, the information EPA included and presented in the RIAs was not always clear," the report found. "According to OMB guid- ance, RIAs should com- municate information sup- porting regulatory deci- sions and enable a third party to understand how the agency arrives at its conclu- sions." Two of the rules exam- ined were the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS 2) and the Spill Prevention Con- trol and Countermeasures (SPCC). In regard to the RFS2 RIA, the GAO report concludes the EPA ex- plained the need for the proposed rule – to assess the projected impacts of the renewable fuel volumes es- tablished through the Ener- gy Independence and Secu- rity Act of 2007 – but did not describe the problem the rule intended to address and failed to explain the costs, benefits and other economic effects included in its accounting statement. For both the SPCC and RFS2 RIA, the GAO deter- mined that EPA did not present information for a range of alternatives to the proposed rule, though EPA maintains that the informa- tion was included in a pre- vious RIA for SPCC and was not justifiable in the RFS2 case. The report recommends that EPA take steps to im- prove the agency's adher- ence to the existing govern- ment guidance, but also that the OMB clarify the best way to apply that practice to the process of estimating costs and benefits of en- vironmental regulations. The report is available at www.gaogov/assets/670/66 4872.pdf. By Donna Sullivan, Editor In February 2013, the Ag Retailers Association (ARA) Board agreed to begin work on a code of practice for am- monium nitrate. Two months later, on April 17, that mission took on a new sense of urgency when the explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant killed sixteen people and injured approximately two hundred others. Two explosions, just milliseconds apart, wiped out a nearby high school, and damaged apartment buildings and surrounding homes. The explosion was initially re- ported as having been caused by anhydrous ammonia, but it was later learned that it was two piles of ammonium ni- trate that were detonated, possibly by a short in an elec- tric golf cart that was charg- ing nearby. The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) held a meeting in Washington in response to the explosion and the back- lash that was sure to follow. It was decided at that meet- ing to broaden the focus in the code of practice ARA was working on to include both anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate. Throughout the process, that code of practice became known as ResponsibleAg. On Tuesday, August 19, Scott Rawlins, treasurer for ResponsibleAg, a self-gov- erned, not-for-profit corpo- ration, addressed the annual meeting of Kansas Agribusi- ness Retailers Association and described the program that has been developed. "Our purpose is to improve and document industry-wide compliance, prepare facili- ties for regulatory inspec- tions and validate internal compliance programs," Rawlins said. "We want to demonstrate responsibility and transparency to the pub- lic and regulators. We want to have continued access to products, and safety for our employees, our customers and our neighbors." TFI and ARA each pledged $100,000 to get the program started, and the As- mark Institute is providing an ongoing contribution by training and credentialing the auditors. Participating facilities will be audited once every three years by a Responsi- bleAg credentialed auditor. This works as a check against internal audits of a business to determine that those audits are robust, and also shows transparency to the public and regulators, Rawlins explained. Once a facility passes the 420-ques- tion audit, their name is en- tered into a data base so sup- pliers can see that they have been verified as safe. If a fa- cility fails the audit, they will be given a list of corrective actions which, once complet- ed, will allow them to be en- tered into the data base. Rawlins believes they will be ready to begin in- spections in early 2015, and that a significant portion of the estimated 3,000 retailers who handle ammonium ni- trate and/or anhydrous am- monia will choose to partici- pate. He emphasized that at this point ResponsibleAg will only look at existing federal regulations, and the audit does not include any- thing beyond what is being asked for at the federal level. "What if we do nothing?" Rawlins asked. "Why are we doing this? Barbara Boxer (Chairman of the U.S. Sen- ate's Committee on Environ- ment and Public Works) said, 'If you don't do some- thing, I'm going to do some- thing.' That's not something we want to contemplate." He continued that last July Pres- ident Obama issued an exec- utive order asking regulatory agencies to come up with a list of options to prevent fu- ture incidents like the one at West, Texas from happening. "We're expecting any day the final report from those agencies that is going to tell us what Mr. Obama wants to do," Rawlins said. "So if we don't do something, we're probably going to face some things we really don't like." ResponsibleAg initiative presented at KARA annual meeting The explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant in April, 2013 killed sixteen people, in- jured approximately two hundred others and caused heavy damage to a nearby high school and surrounding residences. AP photo Scott Rawlins, treasurer for ResponsibleAg, described the initiative for attendees at the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association annual meeting on August 19 in Manhattan. Brownback addresses KARA members Kansas governor Sam Brownback addressed the annual meeting of Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Assocation, discussing his tax policy that is de- signed to attract new businesses to the state as well as strengthen existing ones. "States with low income taxes have the most growth," he said. "When you've got more growth, you've got more taxes coming in from other categories and you can support your pub- lic sector unions. The public sector cannot long be more prosperous than the private sector. The private sector has to be generating jobs and income, paying sales tax and doing all this activity to kick off tax to the public sector." GAO report finds fault with EPA's regulatory impact analyses

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