Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt met with Arkansas government and agriculture leaders in Little Rock Thursday morning. Administrator Pruitt announced that EPA approved Arkansas's 303(d) list of water quality standards, which sets forth Arkansas's impaired waters. Arkansas's list has been pending before the EPA since 2010.
As a result of Arkansas's efforts, 76 percent of water bodies classified as impaired in 2008 are no longer considered such. After the announcement, a total of 335 waters are now considered to satisfy Arkansas's water quality standards.
Part of a multi-state listening tour, Pruitt talked about changes to federal regulations and future funding for projects within the state. Governor Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh and dozens of industry leaders were among the Arkansas delegation in the Thursday meeting, including representatives of Arkansas Rice.
"Under the Trump Administration, EPA is focused on partnering with states to achieve the best environmental outcomes," said EPA Administrator Pruitt. "I am proud to announce that EPA is now approving the 303(d) list that recognizes Arkansas's water quality improvements made under Governor Hutchinson's leadership."
"Today's announcement by the EPA means 76 percent of Arkansas water bodies impaired in 2008 are no longer showing impairments," said Governor Hutchinson. "Arkansas has taken great strides to protect and to enhance our natural environment, and this decision underscores that effort. I also appreciate Administrator Pruitt for listening to the states about how regulations affect our citizens. The clear and efficient regulations from EPA under his leadership-as well as the agency's focus on a more balanced partnership with the states-is good news for Arkansans."
"Arkansas's agriculture industry was honored to host EPA Administrator Pruitt and his staff this morning," said Secretary Ward. "We are pleased that under his leadership the EPA will engage in cooperative federalism and work with our state and our state's largest industry instead of against it. Today's approval of Arkansas's 303 (d) list proves that the EPA is taking real steps toward providing timely regulatory certainty that has been lacking for several years."
Many attendees expressed their appreciation of the EPA's June decision to roll back the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Farmers and state government leaders saw the rule as excessive federal regulation placed upon Arkansas agriculture. Arkansas rice farmers have consistently led efforts to improve conservation and stewardship of Arkansas lands and waterways.
"We have been pleased with the new administration's decision to roll back regulations that have only hindered producers including WOTUS and we see Director Pruitt as a friend of agriculture and an advocate of our industry," said Arkansas Rice Federation Chairman Dow Brantley. "The time he took to meet with us and listen to our concerns today only confirm that further."