Congress Examines Farm Regulations and Impacts to Private Wells

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment examined draft legislation that would modify the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to shield agricultural operators from potential citizen lawsuits over contaminated water.

Even though contaminated groundwater resources are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, under current law, lawsuits may be brought by citizens under jurisdiction of RCRA as well. The legislation under discussion would have removed liability under RCRA for farmers and agriculture, but preserved the ability for lawsuits filed under SDWA.
Groundwater was featured prominently in the hearing as representatives testified to the agricultural contamination of private wells. Subcommittee members were split as to whether citizen lawsuits were burdensome to agricultural interests or necessary to ensure communities received restitution for contamination.
The legislation under consideration could remove the ability for citizens to bring lawsuits for contaminated private wells via RCRA, in the event legal action under SDWA was not sufficient in solving the issue.

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