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 Monday.
The court found the regulations failed to ensure that factory farms
would be held accountable for discharging animal wastes into the
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 ruling.
The decision continues a long running battle over how to regulate
factory farms - known as concentrated animal feeding operations
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 program.
The 2003 rule aimed to implement that decision - it applies to
some 15,500 livestock operations across the country.
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 important industry.
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
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 ruling.
"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 Rights Reserved.