EPA Administrator visits Valley, answers criticisms


EPA administrator Lisa Jackson toured Fresno County farms that have invested in environmentally friendly techniques, but she was faced with criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

Environmentalists say the EPA isn't doing enough to protect people from dangerous chemicals stored near Kettleman City. Conservatives say the agency's clean air requirements make it tough to do business. But Jackson says they can all work together.

Protesters greeted the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, even as she extended a hand of cooperation. Jackson is encouraging farmers to invest in environmentally friendly methods, like electric motors and drip irrigation, using less energy and water.

"This is state of the art, the new stuff," said farmer Ryan Jacobsen, of J&L Vineyards, as he showed Jackson some of his irrigation systems. "And over there, we have the traditional by-hand method."

J&L Vineyards is a prime example of what Jackson hopes to see. An overhead trellis system simplifies harvesting and conserves water in one area, while simple drip irrigation reduces water usage everywhere else.

"We heard earlier about drip irrigation systems that save 15% of the energy and an acre-foot of water a year," Jackson said.

Environmentalists have no quarrel with Jackson's push for "green technology". But they used her visit as an opportunity to highlight what they perceive as the EPA's lack of action in Kettleman City, where they blame toxic waste for a number of birth defects.

"What I'd say to environmentalists is we're tackling the issues," she said.

The EPA is now looking into whether pesticides contributed to the birth defects. Despite all the criticism, Jackson says everybody's really working toward the same goal.

"There is absolutely no difference between the mission of our agency -- which is to protect human health and the environment -- and the desire of people who live and work this land to have clean water and clean air," Jackson said.

One more issue Action News discussed with Jackson was the disaster in Japan. She says the radiation is nothing for people here to worry about, but said it might mean more demand for beef, dairy and fruits & vegetables from the Central Valley.

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