WASHINGTON, DC, March 1, 2005 (ENS):
The Bush administration's regulations to limit water
pollution from factory farms violate the Clean Water
Act and must be revised, a federal appeals court ruled
The court found the regulations failed to ensure that
factory farms would be held accountable for discharging
animal wastes into the nation's waters.
The ruling, released Monday by a three judge panel
of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York,
is a major victory for environmentalists who filed suit
against the February 2003 rules.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper
Alliance and an NRDC senior attorney, called the regulations
the "product of a conspiracy between a lawless
industry and compliant public officials in cahoots to
steal the public trust."
"I am grateful that the court has taken the government
and the barons of corporate agriculture to the woodshed
for a well-earned rebuke," Kennedy said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which
issued the rules, was not available for comment on the
The decision continues a long running battle over how
to regulate factory farms - known as concentrated animal
feeding operations (CAFOs).
CAFOs have emerged as the dominant force in the modern
production of agricultural livestock as the size of
livestock operations has grown over the past two decades.
These operations produce some 500 million tons of animal
waste annually - disposal and storage of this waste
presents serious risks to public health and the environment.
CAFOs often over apply liquid waste on land, which
runs off into surface water, killing fish, spreading
disease, and contaminating drinking water supplies.
Waste can leak onto the land and into groundwater and
drinking water supplies from the massive waste storage
units on the farms.
Three decades ago the U.S. Congress identified CAFOs
as point sources of water pollution to be regulated
under the Clean Water Act's water pollution permitting
The 2003 rule aimed to implement that decision - it
applies to some 15,500 livestock operations across the
Large CAFOs are defined in the regulations as operations
raising more than 1,000 cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500
pigs, 10,000 sheep, 125,000 chickens, 82,000 laying
hens, or 55,000 turkeys in confinement.
The regulations require these operations to apply for
discharge permits under the Clean Water Act every five
years and develop nutrient management plans to manage
and limit pollution - or otherwise demonstrate that
they have no potential for discharge.
The Bush administration said the rules balanced environmental
protection with the concerns of a competitive and economically
But the court described the regulations as "arbitrary
and capricious" and said the Clean Water Act "demands
regulation in fact, not only in principle."
The court determined the rules illegally allowed permitting
authorities to issue permits without reviewing the terms
of CAFO plans to manage and limit pollution.
"The CAFO Rule does nothing to ensure that each
Large CAFO will comply with all applicable effluent
limitations and standards," the panel wrote in
its 65 page ruling.
The rule also "deprives the public of the opportunity
for the sort of regulatory participation that the Act
guarantees because the rule effectively shields the
nutrient management plans from public scrutiny and comment,"
the judges wrote.
The panel agreed with environmentalists who argued that
the regulations violate federal law because they do
not ensure that permits contain specific limits on the
amount of pollution CAFOs can discharge.
"To accept the EPA's contrary argument - that
requiring a nutrient management plan is itself a restriction
on land application discharges - is to allow semantics
to torture logic," the court said.
The agency also failed to require factory farms to
use the necessary technological controls to reduce bacteria
and other pathogens from their pollution, according
"The court agreed that there is a better way than
the Bush administration's plan," said Eric Huber,
a Sierra Club attorney. "When technology and existing
law can keep animal waste out of our rivers, why should
Americans have to settle for a plan that puts polluters
before the public?"
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All