Environmental Enforcement Stories Continue to Make News

The Weekly Activity Report from EPA Region V for the week of November 15, 2010, provides information on enforcement action at the City of East Grand Forks, Minnesota.  At issues was violations under section 112 (r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA).  According to the EPA, “The CAA general duty clause directs owners and operators of stationary sources to identify hazards that may result from accidental releases, to design and maintain a safe facility, and to minimize the consequences of releases when they occur.”

The EPA reports that City of East Grand Forks was cited for 34 violations of section 112(r) of the CAA.  The violations “…represent failure to prepare and implement an effective risk management plan for chlorine used at the City’s drinking water facility.”

The settlement requires the City to pay a cash penalty of $42,000.

In a second story, according to an article in the Illinois Times, “The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency vows to step up enforcement of anti-pollution rules on factory farms after criticism from the federal government and environmental advocates.”

The article goes on to say that in a letter dated November 1, 2010, “IEPA responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several Illinois-based environmental groups that claimed IEPA was not effectively regulating confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the federal Clean Water Act.”

Of course the question is – will the squeaky complaints wheel get regulatory grease? Time will tell but it seems there is more “noise” about enforcement of late.  See the article here: http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-8016-iepa-vows-to-step-up-factory-farm-enforcement.html

Vegans’ Passions and Producers’ Social Contract

“You only get so many opportunities to bring up the issue of factory farming with friends and family.”  These are the words of Vegan Activist, Erik Marcus. Mr. Marcus was describing the “Coffee Table” version of the book, CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, to which he was a contributing author (you can see the video here). 

The large book with high quality photographs is meant to be displayed and serve as a conversation piece.  Mr. Marcus goes on to say in promoting the book, “when you approach someone, you need the best, most persuasive and impactful material you can possibly have…” He then holds up for display the very large coffee table book.

Make no mistake, many vegans are very passionate about their cause and they view large-scale livestock producers (Producers) as a focal point to perhaps further their cause.  If they can point to animal abuse or mistreatment, poor environmental management, or other negative issues at farms, they may be able to help persuade others to join their cause. The activists are also spending time and money in promoting their ideas and ideals. The coffee table book, for example, is no small undertaking.

Again, this is their cause, which they have every right to pursue. But as they continue to spend time, money, and effort in furthering their cause and convincing others that modern Producers are “not to be trusted,” they drive another wedge of distrust between the consumer and the farmer.

Looking at this through the lens of environmental and risk communication; the environmental communicators speak in terms of “social trust.” They will tell you that consumers place trust in companies, institutions, and I’ll add, producers of food, who share the same values they do. This is precisely why books such as this pose a threat to livestock agriculture. It raises the question of whether consumer trust has been well placed with Producers. You may question the validity of their point of view, but they are spending time and money to convince others to “join their camp.” Remember, when one farm is out of compliance with environmental regulations or has made news because of animal cruelty issues, it affects (rightly or wrongly) every other Producer.

The Dragun Corporation has been, and will continue to be, passionate about the need for Producers to be proactive when it comes to environmental compliance. Our role, if you will, is to help fulfill the environmental social contract Producers have with the community and consumers. As Producers demonstrate they are meeting their obligation to be good stewards of the environment, and are in compliance with applicable regulations, they demonstrate that we as consumers have correctly placed our trust in Producers. 

Over the summer, I was asked by Manure Manager Magazine to write an article regarding the recent Clean Water Act ruling.  In this article, I mention that consumers are demanding more transparency of all industries, including environmental transparency. As we know, this does apply to Producers. These demands of consumers are not negotiable; it is a condition of the marketplace – it is what it is.

If it’s true that there is an environmental compliance social contract, the tough question each farmer may want to ask of their own operation is, “how am I doing?” With good planning and commitment of time and resources, the environmental challenges can be managed and you can focus on what you do best; manage your farm.

If you have any questions regarding environmental compliance issues or need assistance, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) or Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) at 248.932.0228.

Environmental Enforcement: Car Parts to Pig Farms

What do an auto parts company and a livestock agriculture operation have in common? They were both on the unfortunate receiving end of EPA Region V Enforcement Action.

According to the Office of Regional Counsel Weekly Activity Report 11-1-10, EPA Region 5 “…issued a Consent Agreement and Final Order that commenced and concluded a proceeding against (a manufacturing plant) for alleged violations of RCRA.” The company is located in Northwood, Ohio.

RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and regulates hazardous waste from “cradle to grave.” According to the EPA, after receiving a Notice of Violation, the company promptly came into compliance. The order requires the company to pay a penalty of $21,362.

In the same report, the EPA stated that a hog farmer near Ashley, Ohio was “…sentenced for polluting the West Branch of Alum Creek.” The sentence includes three months of custody, to be followed by three months of home confinement. In addition, the farmer was fined $51,750 and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17,250 to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. According to the EPA report, this was not the first violation for the farmer.

Final Thought: English Jurist, Henry de Bracton (~1268) is credited for saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If Henry were here today and involved in the exciting world of environmental compliance he might have said, environmental compliance is cheaper than enforcement (or something much pithier).

Will the EPA’s “Plan” Impact Your Plans?

The EPA has a “Plan.” Actually, it is referred to as the “FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan.”  The plan is being promoted as the blueprint for advancing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Seven Priorities. 

What caught my attention was goal number 5, “Enforcing Environmental Laws.”  If environmental enforcement begins in earnest, is the regulated community prepared?   Of course the question is,  is this saber rattling or a harbinger of real enforcement?

“The Plan” includes the following five strategic goals

  • Goal 1: Taking Action on Climate Change and Improving Air Quality
  • Goal 2: Protecting America’s Waters
  • Goal 3: Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development
  • Goal 4: Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution
  • Goal 5: Enforcing Environmental Laws

http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/plan/plan.htm

Better Living Through Chemistry?

A New York Times (NYT) article sides with the EPA’s decision to use the dispersant Coreexit in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the NYT article they state, “Extensive testing of Gulf of Mexico seafood by federal scientists has found only minute traces of the dispersant Corexit, which was used to break up oil from the BP spill, officials say. About 1.8 million gallons of dispersant were applied to the waters’ surface and at the wellhead, nearly a mile undersea.”

Previously some environmental groups were critical of the use of dispersants and the potential for long-term effects on the in area. But according to the NYT, “Of 1,735 tissue samples analyzed, only 13 showed trace amounts of dispersant residue, in concentrations well below safety thresholds established by federal agencies.”

Another example of “Better living through chemistry”?

See the NYT article here http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/gulf-seafood-is-safe-officials-say/?partner=rss&emc=rss