Parsons Sun, June 3, 2011
Story and photo by Jamie Willey
Roberts refers to a coffee mug commemorating the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant's operation from 1941 to 2009 during a speech to the Parsons Rotary Club on Thursday. Roberts said he is disappointed that two years after the plant's closing most of the land there has yet to be transferred to the Great Plains Development Authority, which plans to open a large industrial park there.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said on Thursday that he will continue working toward busting the logjam created by three agencies that has delayed the transition of land to the Great Plains Development Authority.
The senator made his remarks, and also ranted against the many regulations that slow down economic progress, during the Parsons Rotary Club meeting.
Roberts said although the U.S. Army closed the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant east of Parsons in 2009, the transfer of the bulk of the land to the GPDA has not been accomplished. The GPDA plans to use the land to develop the Great Plains Industrial Park.
Roberts said the transfer has been delayed because instead of working together, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the U.S. Department of Defense have been adversaries in the issue of contamination cleanup at the former plant.
He said the GPDA and others involved in trying to get the remaining land at the plant transferred should have to deal only with the KDHE, which should help the GPDA in dealing with the EPA.
“I’m not quite sure what my office is going to do, but I have had it up to here,” Roberts said.
Roberts then went on what he called a rant about the many federal regulations that hold back progress in the U.S. He said the Small Business Administration has said that regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 trillion in 2008. There are even more regulators in Washington, D.C., now than there was then, and Roberts said they are not “twiddling their thumbs.”
Unnecessary regulations cost the U.S. many jobs and takes money away from people because businesses must pass along the cost of the regulations to consumers, Roberts said.
The senator said President Barak Obama has issued an executive order to look at all regulations and the ones being proposed and determine if the costs of the regulations outweigh their benefit. There are many loopholes in this order, though, Roberts said.
For example, the EPA has said it is exempt because its regulations are for the good of the public. Roberts said he would defy anyone to define the criteria in the executive order, which he said has unclear language.
Roberts said he has written legislation that removes all of the loopholes. He has 50 sponsors of the legislation and plans to get 10 more before attaching it to every bill that comes forward.
Roberts said he is not against clean air or clean water, but the EPA has gone too far.
The agency is bringing forward regulations that had been long forgotten because they weren’t viable. For example, in the 1970s, the EPA took issue with rural fugitive dust. When asked about it, an EPA official asked Roberts if he realizes how much dust is stirred up in the air in western Kansas. Roberts said he told the official that yes, there is a lot of dust there, but he asked if the EPA had any suggestions on how to control it instead of just issuing fines.
The EPA official said county trucks should spray rural roads with water twice a day.
When Roberts asked if there was any funding for trucks or a supply for that much water, the EPA official had no answer. The EPA at one time also tried to regulate what it called navigable waters in farm ponds, Roberts said, even though no one would want to swim in most farm ponds. The EPA is still bringing forward such regulations still today.
“It looks like to me they just pulled out the files from the 1970s and they’re back, except this time they don’t even realize how silly it is,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he hopes to break loose the jam of regulations holding up transfer of what he said overall is a postage stamp-size of land at the former plant. He and his office have worked closely with the GPDA, Roberts said, and will continue to do so. Roberts, who at times during his presentation seemed aggravated, said the best thing his staff can do is to keep him calm and see if they can solve the cleanup and regulation issue at the plant.
Also on Thursday, Roberts spoke about the tornado that devastated Joplin. He said his thoughts and prayers are with everyone there, and he said Parsons knows first-hand about the force Mother Nature can unleash following the tornado here in April 2000.
Roberts said he will be in Reading on Friday, another community that was hit by a recent tornado, to see how he can help.
In addressing a question about ethanol subsidies, Roberts said he does not like mandates, tariffs or subsidies, and the U.S. has all three with ethanol, yet Kansas is a big ethanol producer. There will be amendments dealing with ethanol on the Senate floor, and senators will have meaningful conversations about ethanol, Roberts said.
He said he doesn’t want to do anything to harm the ethanol industry in Kansas, but he also doesn’t want to negatively affect people raising livestock and growing feedstock. The use of corn to make ethanol drives up the price of the crop, making it more expensive to feed livestock.
“I don’t want to kill the ethanol industry, but I do think we can massage it a little,” Roberts said about ethanol subsidies.
Roberts also addressed a question from Labette Health CEO Jodi Schmidt about rural health care.
He said the rural health care delivery system is under threat, and the people in Congress representing rural communities must do what they can to save it. Roberts said he will do whatever he can.