New rule allows factory farms to sidestep discharge requirements

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.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 11/04/2008 - 12:34 pm.

    On his way out of office, Bill Clinton took executive action on quite a number of measures as well.

    That’s nothing new.

    What’s instructive is what they choose to do in that final “hour”.

    Clinton chose to use his authority to protect and preserve our environment and our national treasures.

    Bush is choosing to allow his “base” to further savage the environment and further enrich themselves at the long term expense of the rest of us.

    But these folk may get more than they bargain for.

    What neither Bush nor the reciepients of his de-regulatory largess seem to understand is that like bailed out Wall Streeters heading for the luxury spas and giving themselves huge end of year bonuses, in the current economic and political environment this kind of gratuitous final act is likely to result in a backlash the speed and intensity of which may surprise these folks who for so long have sheltered under the welcoming arms of the Bush administration.

    They are not just poking the bear, they are goading a bear that’s already fully awake, mad as hell and standing at the open door of his cage.

    An accountant friend of mine who encourages corporate moderation always remarks: “Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered.”

    Factory hog farms and the rest of those clammering for last second regulatory bailouts should keep that in mind as they watch the election results today.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/04/2008 - 04:22 pm.

    The new president will face a raft of agencies headed by Bush/Cheney cronies who LIVE to defeat the purposes for which the agencies were created.

    It is my hope that, with Bush appointees GONE, those career federal employees who resigned (or were fired) because they wouldn’t help Interior give the forests to the lumber companies or help Labor kill unions and all sympathy for workers, et cetera, will be invited to return to serve in their former positions.

Leave a Reply