The end-of-the-presidency rule making has begun, and critics say the first one on the books from the Bush Environmental Protection Agency allows factory farms to sidestep water discharge requirements of the Clean Water Act.
I have written about the administration’s desire to get rule making done by the election. Late Friday afternoon, with a few days to go before Nov. 4, a rule was signed to allow more than 15,000 industrial farming operations across the United States to avoid – if they claim not to discharge animal wastes into river, lakes and streams – applying for a permit and a submitting a discharge management plan.
In a nutshell, if the farms do not believe they need to apply for the permit or write the plan, they don’t have to.
Phosphorus and nitrogen
Most factory farms dispose of waste in open lagoons or spread it on land. The waste is most often full of phosphorus and nitrogen, among other things, and can kill fish and poison water supplies if it leaks from the lagoons.
The rule orders farms that discharge or plan to discharge waste into waterways to comply with the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements.
The Waterkeeper Alliance was among a number of groups that brought court action in 2005 to clarify a 2003 EPA rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). That lawsuit resulted in Friday’s action.
Waterkeeper is not happy. Attorney Jeffrey Odefey told Environment News Service late Friday that the rule was “an unworkable muddle” that failed to offer “meaningful protection of our nation’s waters and communities.”
On the other side, Edgerton, Minn., farmer Randy Spronk, an office with the National Pork Producers Council, said the rule raises the bar for farmers.
‘Tough but fair’
“The CAFO regulation issued … is a tough but fair rule and sets a standard that the U.S. pork industry has been and will continue living up to,” said Spronk. “Pork producers are ready to comply with the new regulation.”
Prior to 2003, most CAFOs were not liable for discharges under the Clean Water Act. The new law also regulates the application of manure on soil used for crop production.
The EPA’s data estimates that the new rule will prevent 56 million pounds of phosphorus, 110 million pounds of nitrogen, and two billion pounds of sediment from entering waterways annually.
The EPA said the final rule will be published in the Federal Register but did not say when.