NEW YORK, NY, October 14, 2003: According to documents leaked
to the Sierra Club on Friday, October 10, 2003 the Bush Administration's
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to a consent
agreement that proposes to give all Animal Feeding Operations
(AFOs) amnesty from Clean Air Act violations in exchange for
a mere $500 fine and a $2,500 fee to finance an air quality
monitoring program controlled by the AFOs themselves.
This proposal, which confirms what has been suspected by
environmental groups for several months, is environmentally
irresponsible and politically reckless. Factory farms would
be allowed to buy their immunity at a bargain price and continue
polluting the air of surrounding rural communities with impunity
for an indefinite period of time while their activities are
monitored by "third parties" paid by the AFOs. What
is worse is that the agreement took place behind closed doors
with virtually no public debate. At the very least, citizens
deserve full disclosure of the plan, especially given that
they will bear most of its consequences. Yet, the EPA has
not publicly disclosed any information to this date. While
the EPA should be hard at work protecting the environment,
it appears to be increasingly eager to protect the interests
of corporate polluters with an appalling disregard for environmental
and health consequences.
"This deal gives factory farm operators a license to
pollute and continue shifting pollution costs to the residents
that live nearby without fear of being sued under the Clean
Air Act. With this agreement the Environmental Protection
Agency has completed its transition to the Environmental Pollution
Agency," says Dr. William J. Weida, Director of the GRACE
Factory Farm Project.
GRACE objects to the following features of this unconscionable
1. Polluters control the monitoring program.
AFOs would contribute $2,500 to a monitoring fund controlled
by the polluters themselves. This is a ludicrous sum as it
would not even buy decent monitoring equipment, let alone
pay for the cost and time to implement the program adequately.
AFOs would propose where the monitoring takes place and who
the "independent third parties" to perform the monitoring
will be. Given that the polluters are the paymasters, it is
hard to see how these third parties can remain "independent."
2. National Academy of Sciences pronounces pollution
measurement methods inadequate. The agreement relies
on "Emissions-Estimating Methodologies" developed
by the EPA based on data from the nationwide emissions monitoring
program to estimate the total annual emissions from individual
AFOs. However, a recent National Academy of Sciences study
has found that this method of calculating air emissions will
not work and that any acceptable method must be based on the
unique climate and terrain of each AFO.
3. The agreement offers legal "bribes."
To all intents and purposes, AFOs would be able to buy their
exemption from Clean Air lawsuits for a small fee. The proposed
fine of $500 is much lower than the current $27,000 per diem
under Clean Air Act and CERCLA and doesn't even begin to match
the monetary losses in property value and health costs experienced
by neighbors of factory farms.
4. There is no expiration date to the license to
pollute. The agreement lacks an expiration date:
the "covenant not to sue" lasts until the end of
the monitoring program, but no specific end date is set for
emission estimates. This would potentially allow factory farms
to pollute indefinitely.
5. Federal funding would be extended to violators
of Clean Air Act. A facility that violates the Clean
Air Act would still be allowed to obtain federal funding,
which is now prohibited where there are previous violations
6. Any enforcement actions would be based on bad
data. Since "the annual emissions from a particular
facility...will be determined based on...an assumption that
the number of animals housed at the facility is the maximum
number of animals housed at the facility," any AFO operator
can influence the results of an odor survey by simply reducing
the number of animals at the facility prior to the survey
and then increasing the number after the survey is taken.
7. The deal is extended to all AFOs. By
extending this deal from large Confined Animal Feeding Operations
(CAFOs) to animal feeding operations of all sizes (AFOs),
this deal allows an even greater number of facilities to obtain
exemption from air pollution standards.
Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE)
is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1996. GRACE
works to form new links with the research, policy and grassroots
communities to preserve the future of the planet and protect
the quality of the environment.