Michigan County Judge backs 'factory farm' pollution rules

by Jeff Alexander
The Muskegon Chronicle
Thursday January 22, 2009

A Newaygo County judge has upheld a state regulation designed to prevent large "factory farms" from polluting surface waters.

The Michigan Farm Bureau and other farm groups challenged whether the state Department of Environmental Quality could require all concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs, to obtain pollution discharge permits.

The permits, issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, regulate the amount of manure and other pollutants that CAFOs may discharge to surface waters. The DEQ in 2003 began requiring all CAFOs to obtain discharge permits; the regulation was aimed at keeping manure that CAFOs spread on farm fields from draining into surface waters.

Farm groups argued the state could only require discharge permits after a CAFO actually had a discharge of manure that caused water pollution.

In a written ruling issued earlier this week, Newaygo County Circuit Court Judge Anthony Monton sided with the DEQ.

"The enabling (law) for this rule provides the DEQ the legal authority to regulate potential discharges of animal waste from CAFOs," the judge said in his eight-page opinion. "The rule is rationally related to the DEQ's responsibility ... to protect Michigan's water resources from pollution."


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