Environmental groups sue EPA over CAFO Reporting Rule

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2013- Five environmental and food safety groups filed a lawsuit today against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its withdrawal of the “Proposed CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] Reporting Rule.”

The Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed the suit in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia.

EPA failed to provide a reasonable explanation for its decision to withdraw the rule, according to the plaintiffs. The proposed rule, which the agency withdrew in July 2012, would have required large livestock and poultry farmers to report information about their operations.

In their complaint, the groups say EPA took “unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious action” by withdrawing the rule, which is “intended to provide EPA with information necessary to carry out the CWA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).”

EPA published the Proposed CAFO Reporting Rule in October of 2011. According to the plaintiffs' complaint, the rule proposed two options under which the agency would require either all CAFOs or those CAFOs located in undetermined “focus watersheds” to submit “essential information” to EPA, including “contact information, location of the CAFO's production area, [CWA] permitting status, number, and type of animals, and number of acres available for land application.”

In July of 2012, EPA announced its withdrawal of the mandatory reporting requirement. The agency determined it would collect CAFO information using existing sources of information, including state NPDES programs and other programs at the federal and state level.  

In the fall of 2012, several environmental organizations filed Freedom of Information Act requests with EPA for all of the state-generated data gathered by the Agency.

“The data from the states is inconsistent, incomplete and, ultimately, will not allow the agency to finally begin the process of properly regulating these highly polluting facilities,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food & Water Watch.

EPA required state regulatory agencies to provide the agency with this information, which it then publicly released in its entirety. This year, in response to new FOIA requests, EPA intended to release additional personal information from farmers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council filed a lawsuit and sought a restraining order in an attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from releasing personal information. According to AFBF, the majority of farmers and ranchers, as well as their families, don't just work on the farm - they also live there - and the release of private information would be an unjustified government intrusion.    

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