Monday, November 03, 2008

Industry Supports New CAFO Rules; Enviros Oppose

Oct 31: Late Friday (October 31), U.S. EPA announced it has finalized a rule helping to protect the nation’s water quality by requiring concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to safely manage manure. EPA estimates CAFO regulations will prevent 56 million pounds of phosphorus, 110 million pounds of nitrogen, and 2 billion pounds of sediment from entering streams, lakes, and other waters annually. Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles said, “EPA’s new regulation of animal feedlots sets a strong national standard for pollution prevention and environmental protection, while maintaining our country’s economic and agricultural competitiveness. This clean water rule strengthens environmental safeguards by embracing a zero discharge standard and requiring site-specific management plans to prevent runoff of excess nutrients into our nation’s waters.”

EPA indicated that it is the first time it has required a nutrient management plan (NMP) for manure to be submitted as part of a CAFO’s Clean Water Act permit application. Manure contains the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, which, when not managed properly on agricultural land, can pollute nearby streams, lakes, and other waters. Previous rules required a CAFO operator to use an NMP for controlling manure, but the regulation builds on that by requiring the NMP to be submitted with the permit application. The plan will be reviewed by the permitting authority and conditions based on it will be incorporated as enforceable terms of the permit. The proposed NMP and permit will be available for public review and comment before going final.

The regulation also requires that an owner or operator of a CAFO that actually discharges to streams, lakes, and other waters must apply for a permit under the Clean Water Act. If a farmer designs, constructs, operates and maintains their facility such that a discharge will occur, a permit is needed. EPA is also providing an opportunity for CAFO operators who do not discharge or propose to discharge to show their commitment to pollution prevention by obtaining certification as zero dischargers.

In addition, the final rule includes technical clarifications regarding water quality-based effluent limitations and use of best management practices to meet zero discharge requirements, as well as affirming the 2003 rule requirement for reducing fecal coliform through the use of best conventional technology. EPA indicated that it worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the development of the rule and will work closely with states during implementation. The rule deadline for newly defined facilities to apply for permits is February 27, 2009, and the rules will become effective 30-days following publication. The final rule responds to a February 2005 federal court decision [Waterkeeper Alliance et al. v. EPA, 399 F.3d 486] that upheld most of the Agency’s 2003 rule, but directed further action or clarification on some portions.

The National Pork Producer Council (NPPC) called the new regulation “tough but fair rule” and said it sets a high environmental standard for livestock producers. NPPC Environment Committee Chairman Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, MN said, “The CAFO regulation issued today is a tough but fair rule and sets a standard that the U.S. pork industry has been and will continue living up to. Pork producers are ready to comply with the new regulation.” NPPC said the new rule is the product of more than 10 years of work to overhaul the federal Clean Water Act rules applicable to livestock operations. Spronk said, “Looking back to where we were in federal policy in 1998, when this all started, through the 2001 proposed rule, the 2003 final rule, a 2005 federal court decision and now this 2008 final rule, EPA is making sweeping policy changes that affect all aspects of pork operations and water quality."

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release calling the final rule a "Halloween Trick from Bush Administration: Treat to Factory Farms." NRDC said under the rule, "Thousands of factory farms will be exempt from needing permits that limit water pollution." Jon Devine, Senior Attorney in the Water Program at NRDC said, “Literally and figuratively, this rule puts the Bush Administration’s stamp of approval on a load of manure. Even though Congress specifically targeted factory farms for regulation under the Clean Water Act in 1972 and EPA has recognized the importance of these operations getting pollution control permits, the Administration stepped in it today.”

Jeffrey Odefey, Staff Attorney at the Waterkeeper Alliance said, “It’s outrageous to see the environmental yard sale that marks the Bush Administration’s final days in office. Clearly, industry lobbyists are picking up last-minute deals intended to preserve their right to pollute for years to come. Instead of offering meaningful protection of our nation’s waters and communities, EPA has come up with an unworkable muddle that sets the country back by decades.” Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program director said, "Clean water is too important to allow polluting factory farms to continue business as usual. Yet again, the Bush Administration has put private industry profits before public health."

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a prepublication copy of the 240-page final rule (click here). Access a 2-page fact sheet (click here). Access EPA's CAFO rule website for additional background information (click here). Access a release from NPPC (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort CAFO links for additional information (click here). [*Water]