August in Nebraska


By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

In August, I spent four productive weeks working back home in Nebraska. From Omaha to Scottsbluff, I logged over 2,400 miles traveling across our beautiful state. Our wonderful people and communities show why we call this the good life. It is truly a privilege to listen to you and hear what’s on your minds.

 

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to thank our men and women in uniform for their brave service to our country. At a special ceremony in Elkhorn last month, I was honored to welcome home Army Reserve soldiers. I also hosted a roundtable discussion in Omaha with veterans of the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their stories and the challenges they face reinforce my commitment to their legacy and our duty as a nation to provide them with the best care when they return home.

 

Transportation fuels Nebraska’s economy. But in order to support our economy, we need to ensure that our infrastructure is up-to-date. For that reason, I was proud to welcome U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to Lincoln on August 12. Together, we held a roundtable discussion with Nebraska transportation stakeholders and had a site visit at the Diverging Diamond Interchange Highway project. This was a great opportunity to present our shared commitment to long-term infrastructure policy and funding. Throughout the month, I hosted many events with representatives from the small business community, city administrators, economic development leaders, medical professionals, and members of the agriculture community.

 

Nebraska is strong because our citizens are engaged and informed. During August, I hosted over a dozen listening sessions. One issue stood out at nearly every event along this journey: Nebraskans are frustrated with the EPA’s attack on our energy and water resources.

 

I’m working hard to address this federal overreach by fighting each one of the administration’s heavy-handed regulations. From the “waters of the United States” rule and the war on coal, to a proposed rule to lower the ozone standard, these punishing regulations will increase costs, hurt businesses, and harm Nebraska families. The EPA needs to hear common sense from Nebraska. To aid in this effort, I hosted a field hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in Columbus on September 1. At this hearing on the EPA’s ozone rule, Nebraska stakeholders went on record to voice their concerns and show how these regulations will hurt families, raise costs, and empower the federal government.

 

My most important duty in the Senate is providing for our national security and protecting our nation from threats. On the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, your voices were overwhelmingly aligned and candid. I share your concerns. This deal does not benefit our country, and it will make the world a more dangerous place. While I don’t believe we have the votes in Congress to stop the deal, I will remain a vocal opponent of this agreement and work to ensure that our top priority is the security of our nation.

 

As I return to work in the Senate, I bring with me renewed dedication to making our country better for future generations. From Scotts Bluff Monument to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, the unique beauty of our state shines brightly. Our state is a treasure, and our people make us proud. I will continue to work hard and serve the people of Nebraska. Your voice will guide my work and remain my most important source of information.

 

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

Nebraska’a Renewable Future


By Governor Pete Ricketts

Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry, and that is why growing agriculture is so critical to growing our state. Ethanol is one of the key growth industries in Nebraska agriculture that has added billions in revenue and thousands of jobs to our economy over the past decade. Thanks to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), passed in 2005, Nebraska’s ethanol production has tripled from 566 million gallons to about 2 billion gallons in just 10 years.  

 

Before the advent of the RFS, ethanol slowly took root in Nebraska in spite of critics who made their case against it. In 1985, Chief Ethanol Fuels built Nebraska’s first ethanol plant in Hastings. Over the next 20 years, ten more plants were built. 

 

In our state, ethanol has become one side of what some call the “Golden Triangle” along with corn and cattle. Nebraska earned its reputation as “the Beef State” in part because of our abundant corn supply, which serves as the primary feed for cattle and results in high-quality beef. As more ethanol plants were built, cattle feeders began to use distillers grain, a high-quality feed that is a co-product of the ethanol production process. Distillers grain has become the preferred feedstock of many cattle feeders because of its feed value and performance advantages, helping put Nebraska at the top of all cattle feeding states in 2013 and 2014. 

 

Since the passage of the RFS, Nebraska has built over a dozen additional ethanol plants and expanded production at several others. Today, Nebraska’s 24 ethanol plants add jobs, property tax base, and economic growth to communities from Bridgeport to Blair. The Nebraska ethanol industry has invested over $5 billion in capital investments in our state and supports 4,400 jobs including 1,300 direct jobs. All this has added up to Nebraska ranking as the second-largest ethanol producer nationally.

 

Early critics of ethanol warned that producing fuel from corn or similar feedstocks would compete with putting food on the table – a belief that proven untrue. While this criticism and others have been discredited as the ethanol industry has grown and consumers have become familiar with the fuel, the ethanol industry is under a new assault by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has a proposal on the table that would slash billions of gallons from the RFS, effectively reducing demand for corn ethanol. This proposal represents a step away from policies previously set at the federal level to utilize cleaner-burning fuels and diversify our country’s energy portfolio as our nation seeks new and innovative ways to achieve energy independence. 

 

The proposal also effectively pulls the rug from underneath ethanol producers and the industry who rely on the RFS. On my administration’s recent trade mission to Europe, an ethanol company based in Denmark with a major presence in Nebraska indicated to me that the EPA’s proposal to reduce the RFS was a barrier to expanding in the United States.

 

My administration has taken action. On June 25, the EPA held a hearing on the proposed reductions to the RFS in Kansas City, Kansas. Nebraska Energy Office Director David Bracht testified at the hearing about the value of ethanol to Nebraska and the negative impact that the EPA’s proposal would have on our state. Nebraskans who care about the future of agriculture and ethanol in our state are welcome to submit their own comments to the EPA. More information on how you can submit a comment of your own can be found by visitingwww.tinyurl.com/epaethanol

 

The proposed changes to the RFS are just another example of baseless policies issued by the EPA and Washington bureaucrats that will hurt our state. As Governor, I will continue to push back on Washington and fight for Nebraska. Together, we can overcome this challenge for the future of ethanol and agriculture, and continue to grow our state for the next generation.

Governor Pete Ricketts

Governor Pete Ricketts

Senator Brasch and 26 Other Senators Send Letter to EPA


Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16, submitted a letter last week to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to convey strong opposition to the proposed definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Signed by 26 other Nebraska State Senators, the letter criticizes the broad scope of the new rule and urges the EPA and Corps to work cooperatively with Nebraska’s state and local agencies.

 

Emphasizing concerns expressed by landowners, especially those involved in agriculture, Senator Brasch said, “The proposed definition poses a very serious threat to our individual property rights because all waters, from farm ponds to streams, in Nebraska could be subject to federal control. Farmers, ranchers, and other landowners could see increased federal government regulations over portions of their land.”

 

 

The Honorable Gina McCarthy                                                   The Honorable John M. McHugh

Administrator                                                                                                                      Secretary

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency                                                     Department of the Army

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW                                                           The Pentagon, Room 3E700

Washington, D.C. 20460                                                                             Washington, D.C. 20310

RE: Opposition to Proposed Definition of “Waters of the United States”

Dear Administrator McCarthy and Secretary McHugh:

As Members of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature, we write you in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

We are especially concerned about the effect this rulemaking will have on our farmers, ranchers, and other landowners in the state of Nebraska. Under the new definition, streams, farm ponds, and irrigation ditches, among other waters, could be considered “waters of the United States.” This brings the potential for cumbersome oversight and convoluted permitting processes.

Essentially a catch-all provision for waters that do not otherwise meet the broad scope of definitions listed in the rule, the “other waters” provision gives us great trepidation. Under this category, any and all waters showing a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters will be federally controlled. This is a tenuous regulatory interpretation of the CWA that gives the federal government virtually limitless control of currently state-controlled waters. Not only does this irreconcilably supersede the clear intent of Congress, but it undermines the Supreme Court decisions in SWANCC and Rapanos, which determined that the EPA and the Corps do not have limitless authority over water.

We share the concerns of the Western Governors’ Association: “[W]e are concerned that this rulemaking was developed without sufficient consultation with the states and that the rulemaking could impinge upon state authority in water management.”

The authority of the individual states to manage the water located within their boundaries is unambiguously recognized in the CWA. Section 101(g) of the Act establishes this right and the duty of federal agencies to work cooperatively with state and local agencies:

It is the policy of Congress that the authority of each State to allocate quantities of water within its jurisdiction shall not be superseded, abrogated or otherwise impaired by this Act. It is the further policy of Congress that nothing in this Act shall be construed to supersede or abrogate rights to quantities of water which have been established by any State. Federal agencies shall co-operate with State and local agencies to develop comprehensive solutions to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution in concert with programs for managing water resources.

The proposed rule undermines this specific, express charge by Congress because it does not allow states to maintain their sovereignty with regard to water management, opting instead for a one-size-fits-all determination by federal agencies.

It is our hope that federal agencies will work cooperatively with Nebraska and other states to harmoniously address environmental concerns, state sovereignty, and individual landowner rights. According to the Western Governors’ Association, in its letter dated March 25, that cooperative relationship was not established during the rulemaking process. Therefore, we urge you to include Nebraska’s state and local leaders, as well as state and local leaders nationwide, in this rulemaking process.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to future collaboration with you.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Lydia Brasch

District #16

Kate Sullivan

District #41

 

Tom Carlson

District #38

 

Mark Christensen

District #44

 

Colby Coash

District #27

 

Al Davis

District #43

 

Annette Dubas

District #34

 

Tommy Garrett

District #3

 

Tom Hansen

District #42

 

John Harms

District #48

 

Charlie Janssen

District #15

 

Jerry Johnson

District #23

 

Bill Kintner

District #2

 

Bob Krist

District #10

 

Beau McCoy

District #39

 

John Murante

District #49

 

John Nelson

District #6

Pete Pirsch

District #4

 

Jim Scheer

District #19

 

Paul Schumacher

District #22

 

Les Seiler

District #33

 

Jim Smith

District #14

 

Norm Wallman

District #30

 

Dan Watermeier

District #1

 

Galen Hadley

District #37

 

Mike Gloor

District #35

 

Kathy Campbell

District #25

###

Senator Brasch

Senator Brasch

EPA Carbon Rule Vital to Rural America


Denver, Colorado – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold public hearing in four locations across the country this week, including a hearing in Denver. The hearings will provide interested parties the opportunity to provide their hopes for and concerns about EPA’s proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

“Every day our work gives us a seat at the table in small towns across America. This is where we hear the good and the bad, the stories about hope, and triumph, and taking a stand,” said Brian Depew, Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director. “We hear from the leaders that make our communities strong. And we hear from those who are too busy and working too hard to take credit for any of that.”


That’s why I traveled here today from Lyons, Nebraska, a town of 850 people in northeast Nebraska, to offer my support for your agency’s action to address climate change, Depew continued.


To view or download a copy of Depew’s testimony go to:

http://www.cfra.org/clean-power-plan-testimony


According to Depew, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and the other Midwest and Plains states that make up the Western Corn Belt, include more than 520,000 farms producing crops valued at $136 billion annually. These states account for 65% of national production of corn and soybeans. And if nothing changes, climate change will drive many of these Midwest farmers out of business.


“That includes farmers like Matt Russell, a 5th generation farmer from Iowa who feels he is already experiencing the effects of climate change,” said Depew. “He’s worried that we won’t be able to meet the needs of a growing population if the agricultural systems we have in place now are no longer viable with a climate that has changed.”


Harley Buys, a conventional corn grower from Minnesota has also decided to buck convention and now farms with carbon sequestration on his mind. He knows it’s his job, as a good steward, to leave the land better than when he started, added Depew.

Depew explained further that it’s not just farmers who are concerned. In the past few weeks more than 60 community leaders have added their names to a sign-on letter drafted by the Center for Rural Affairs, including rural leaders in Colorado. The letter will be delivered to Senators in Washington, Senators who represent the signers as well as rural and small town residents across the region.


“Moreover, nearly 600 rural and small town folks and friends of rural America have signed our petition in support of the carbon pollution standards being discussed in Denver today. We don’t claim to speak for everybody, but the relationships we’ve built over the past four decades remind us that stewardship is still strong in rural America,” concluded Depew.

 

Comments on EPA’s Water Rights Needed by July 21st


Nebraska’s public and private water rights are being jeopardized by the federal government, and public comments must be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by July 21.

 

On March 25 the EPA, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), issued a proposed rule change that would redefine the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Arguing that their proposal would “enhance protection for the nation’s public health” and “increase CWA program predictability and consistency”, the EPA intends to expand federal jurisdiction of the nation’s waterways. Under this new definition, the federal government could gain control of our water. This would include wetlands as well.  Essentially, even ditches that collect rain water may be subject to EPA control. Farmland will almost assuredly be affected by this rule change.

 

For this past year, Senator Lydia Brasch has been in ongoing contact with various national and state leaders, agriculture organizations, and others to address concerns from landowners, including declaration of federally environmentally protected areas and an effort by the EPA to purchase land flooded by the 2011 flood. The proposed rule expands the scope of the CWA beyond its original intent in 1972, when it was passed. Sen. Brasch states, “The proposed definition poses a very serious threat to our individual property rights because all waters, from farm ponds to streams, in Nebraska could be subject to federal control. Farmers, ranchers, and other landowners could see increased federal government regulations over portions of their land.”

 

Public comments on the issue are due on or before July 21. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880, at http://www.regulations.gov; by emailing them to ow-docket@epa.gov, including the Docket ID No. in the subject line; or by mailing the original and three copies of your comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2011–0880.

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

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