The EPA’s Failure to Track Factory Farms

A recent brief by the Food and Water Watch breaks down the inefficient and outdated regulations by the EPA to track CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). The EPA chose to withdraw on the proposed 308 rule, which would have required “all CAFOs nationwide to submit basic information to the EPA, including: the owner name and contact information, the location as defined by latitude and longitude or street address, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage, the maximum number and type of each animal in confinement, and the acres of land available for land application of manure. The EPA proposed the rule in October 2011 and withdrew it under industry pressure in July 2012.” The EPA is turning a blind eye to incomplete or missing information on factory farms and seemingly prefers to stay in the dark on the issue.
Read the full report here.

In the spring of 2013, three environmental organizations
obtained documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The documents related to the EPA’s process of gathering data
about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Those
documents were shared with several organizations, including
Food & Water Watch. On April 4, 2013, the EPA took the un-
characteristic move of asking for the original set of documents
back due to pressure from the livestock industry and Con-
gress, offering a limited subset of the documents as a replace-
ment. Food & Water Watch declined to return the original
documents to the EPA…

Neither the EPA nor any other federal agency collects compre-
hensive data on the number of CAFOs or their size or location.
This lack of data impairs the EPA’s ability to enforce permitting requirements, identify sources of severe water quality
problems, and evaluate CAFOs’ overall impact on water
quality.

The EPA has facility-specific information for other point
source polluting industries and shares that information in public
databases, such as the Toxics Release Inventory, but the agency
has not achieved the same level of transparency for CAFOs.
The proposed 308 Rule would have required all CAFOs na-
tionwide to submit basic information to the EPA, such as the
location, contact information, number and type of animals,
permit status, and land available for waste application. The
EPA inexplicably withdrew the 308 Rule, claiming that the
agency would rely on existing data sources, but this analysis
demonstrates that those sources are weak and incomplete.
The EPA’s own findings contradict its rationale for withdraw-
ing the 308 Rule, and the EPA does not otherwise justify its
change in position. That’s why Food & Water Watch, Iowa
Citizens for Community Improvement, the Environmental
Integrity Project, the Center for Food Safety and the Humane
Society of the United States are suing the EPA to force it to do
what it should have done in the first place: create an accurate,
publicly available database of all CAFOs in the United States.

Source: Food and Water Watch, The EPA’s Failure to Track Factory Farms, August 2013

Photo: Smithsonian Science, 28 August 2009

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