Best management practices for the EPA

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered the Washington Department of Ecology to write a manual of “best management practices” for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

In the EPA’s usual not-so-subtle manner, that word was accompanied by a threat that the state would lose federal funding for water-quality projects if it didn’t comply.

We’ve said a lot about the EPA bullying farmers and ranchers, but we’re a bit taken aback that the agency is now bullying the state of Washington. It seems to us a governor worth his salt would get the D.C. bigwigs on the phone and give them a piece of his mind.

However, Gov. Jay Inslee seems most interested in pleasing his overlords, not crossing them.

Be that as it may, the Department of Ecology is now in the business of telling farmers how to farm. We can’t wait to read this opus.

We have an idea. How about farmers writing a manual of best management practices for the EPA? It only seems fair that the EPA gets the guidance it needs to correct its many shortcomings.

We hereby offer a first draft of the upcoming bestseller, “Best Management Practices for the EPA,” also known as “How to Run a Government Agency without Acting like a Tyrant.”

Section 1: Mine waste. Last year an EPA contractor decided to poke a hole in an old mine near Silverton, Colo. The result was 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste flowing all the way to the Colorado River. BMP: If you want to find polluters, sometimes all you need to do is look in the mirror, accept responsibility and skip the self-righteousness.

Section 2: Personnel management. When a $100,000-a-year employee tells you he’s missed 2 1/2 years of work because he’s a spy, don’t believe him. BMP: Ask his supervisor what he — or she — was doing, too, because managing wasn’t on the list.

Section 3: All emails must be on official agency servers. As Hillary Clinton has discovered, using unauthorized email servers will get you in a lot of hot water. BMP: Use Uncle Sam’s email system only, not a side channel to chat with friends in environmental groups.

Section 4: Be nice, and professional. When the Texas division leader of the EPA told a roomful of people that he was going to treat everyone in his area the way the Romans treated villages they conquered by crucifying the first three people he saw, he showed what the EPA is really all about — bullying the public. BMP: Don’t be a jerk.

Section 5: Don’t waste public money. The EPA wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single gambit aimed at lobbying Washington state legislators to require 100-foot buffer zones along all farmland fronting rivers and streams. Why? Because the agency’s leaders think it’s a good idea. They went through all of the trouble of smearing farmers, buying advertisements and setting up a website to push an agenda based on assumptions, not facts. BMP: Forget about being a smoother mover with the political and environmental crowd and just do your job in a fair-minded manner. It will earn you respect and not contempt.

Which brings us to Section 6: Get the facts before you act. It’s always easy to make assumptions and accuse farmers and ranchers of polluting rivers. It’s not only easy, it’s lazy and offensive. BMP: If the EPA would do actual testing of the water quality upstream and downstream from a farm, it would have facts, something missing from many of its assertions.

What the EPA needs to do is stop forcing states to undertake half-baked ideas like best management practices and work together to help farmers that have a problem to meet the law.

That’s one best management practice we can all support.

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