The man from the EPA bore no resemblance to the villainous Simon Legree. He had neither horns nor a forked tail. He seemed an affable sort—young, intelligent, humorous at times and comfortable before an audience of folk who typically express disdain for his employer.

Yet his fellow panelist, Terry Detrick, president of the American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance Agency, admitted that, “the EPA is our most feared agency. We are scared of what might come down the pike. We hate regulations.”

Detrick and Josh Svalty, who works in the EPA’s Region 7 (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri), squared off in something of a “point/counterpoint” discussion at the recent Rural Economic Outlook Conference on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater.

The exchanges were civil and the discussion wide-ranging.

Detrick did admit that understanding the EPA’s mission offers insight into the decisions they make. “I didn’t realize until recently that at the beginning of the EPA development they had one thing in mind: if it deals with health matters, it falls under EPA. That sheds light on how the EPA has to approach issues.”

He said economics plays no role in EPA decisions.