Environmental Regulatory Focus on CAFOs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a settlement agreement with Waterkeepers Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC v. EPA, 5th Cir., No. 08-61093, 5/25/10).  Among other things, the settlement will require Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to submit information to the EPA about their operations, including the name and address of the owner/operator; location of facility; type of facility; number and type of animals; size of facility; type and capacity of manure storage; quantity of manure, process wastewater and litter generated annually by the CAFO; whether manure/wastewater is land-applied; whether the CAFO employs and implements nutrient management plan/practices; quantity of manure transferred off-site; and whether the facility has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.  This information will be made public by the EPA. 

The requirement to submit information will apply to all CAFOs, not only to those that are now required to have NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This information will be required every five years.

Unrelated to this settlement agreement, The EPA recently took enforcement actions against six cattle feedlots in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska for violations of the CWA.  The fines ranged from $10,800 to $20,000.  Karl Brooks, administrator for EPA Region VI said, “EPA will continue to use civil enforcement, including penalties when appropriate, to halt illegal practices that pose risks to human health and water quality, threaten aquatic life and habitat, and impair the use and enjoyment of waterways.”

As we reported in our March 3, 2010, ezine, among the EPA’s top six priorities for 2011-2013 are “Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters.”  It would appear, based on some of the recent developments, the EPA is committed to taking action on these priorities.

Finally, in light of the above, keep in mind the November 10, 2010, deadline for development and implementation of Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC), which is a provision under the CWA.  If you are self-certifying your SPCC plan, it is critical that you also implement the provisions of the plan.  If you require a Professional Engineer to certify your plan, you should plan on having your site inspection no later than the end of September 2010. Dairy farmers should note that storage of milk is considered a regulated substance under the SPCC and therefore must be considered as part of the spill plan.

BNA: http://pub.bna.com/ptcj/475036.pdf

Beef Magazine: http://beefmagazine.com/government/0527-epa-takes-action-against-feedlots/

SPCC Information for Farmers (EPA): http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/docs/oil/spcc/spccfarms.pdf

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