ALERT: EPA to take new look at permits for CAFOs

The Environmental Protection Agency will publish a guidance document this week that will spell out which CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) must apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). EPA agreed to publish the new guidance as part of a legal settlement with three environmental groups – the Waterkeepers Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council – who challenged the final CAFO rule published in 2008, during the Bush Administration.

Under the settlement agreement, announced on May 26, EPA will provide new guidance to agencies – usually within states – that issue CAFO permit no later than May 28, 2010. The guidance will specify “the kinds of operations and factual circumstances that EPA anticipates may trigger the duty to apply for permits as discharging or proposing to discharge.” The settlement agreement calls for EPA to propose a rule by May 26, 2011 requiring all CAFOs to submit information to EPA detailing information about their operations including: their location, the location of their integrator (if a contract operation), their animal population, manure storage, land application practices, manure transfers, and other information – including whether or not they’ve applied for an NPDES permit.

The guidance is apparently a first step in tightening the CAFO rule. The three environmental groups who challenged it, wrote in a statement, EPA’s 2008 CAFO rule, “effectively exempted thousands of factory farms from taking steps to minimize water pollution…under this rule, massive facilities were able to escape government regulation by claiming – without government verification – that they do not discharge into waterways protected by the Clean Water Act.”

Comment from the EPA was not immediately available.


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