A little follow-up on the item in tonight’s Open Line on Act 954, which is likely to be repealed at tomorrow’s special session. I spoke with Rep. Andy Davis and Sen. David Sanders, co-sponsors of the legislation, which altered permit requirements for discharging minerals into streams (the law is unrelated to the teacher insurance issue). Both now favor repeal of the act, and indeed, Davis has taken the lead in ensuring that votes are in place.
Davis and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality officials had a disagreement about the execution of the law, which you can read about here and here, but the end result was that the federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in with heightened regulation in the state due to Act 954, which many believed to be in violation of federal law. Act 954, in other words, backfired on its supporters.
Davis acknowledged that the law’s opponents, including ADEQ officials, predicted that it would invite these very problems with the feds, but he said he did not regret pushing the legislation. “I don’t regret running it,” he said. “We had a problem and we were trying to address it. That’s what we’re here for. But where we’re at now is the EPA is stepping in and that’s even less desirable than what we had originally.”
More from Davis:
We pushed this bill because we have a problem with some water-quality standards in Arkansas. We were hoping that ADEQ would revise some rules and regulations and that EPA would then approve those revisions, and we would get some relief from some overly burdensome dissolved-minerals standards. It didn’t happen that way. Where we’re at now — and what I’m trying to get people to focus on is not so much why we passed it in the first place — where we’re at now is we’ve got EPA threatening to federalize permits and that’s a situation that was unintended and we do not want to put Arkansas industries and municipalities in to. So at this point we’re asking for repeal. It’s not controversial. I’ve talked to members of the House and Senate and I’m confident we have the votes for repeal. I don’t expect anybody to oppose it. I appreciate the governor taking the time to listen to us and put it on the special session. Moving forward, we hope to continue working with ADEQ to achieve policy and rule changes that would give us some relief from these dissolved-minerals issues.
Once Act 954 is repealed, Davis said that he had no plans for additional legislation on this issue — instead he’s hoping to work directly with ADEQ through their rule-making process.