EPA Inspections Planned

I just read that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be inspecting dairy farms in the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia. One of the areas the EPA is focusing on is non-point source runoff, and dairy farms have been part of this “target group” for some time. If the EPA does move forward with their inspections, will they focus only on non-point sources or will they take the “opportunity” to look at other areas of potential non-compliance? This certainly will be worth monitoring as we head into the New Year.

It’s a very short story, but here is a link to the article. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2010/dec/27/epa-inspecting-va-dairy-farms-ar-738581/

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Phytoremediation Article

One of the services we offer at our company is remediation of “contaminated” soil and groundwater. As you may know, there are many methods of remediation and solutions are based on several factors including media (e.g., soil, groundwater, sediment), type of contaminant, cleanup goals, timing, and a number of other factors. One of the potential choices for remediation is Phytoremediation.  Recently, two of our associates co-authored an article on Phytoremediation in the international journal, The Chemical Engineer. You can find a copy of this article on our website at www.dragun.com

“Crunchy” Beef Finishing and More Interactive Tools for the “Antis”

Have you heard the new definition for the word “crunchy”?  According to social media specialist, Seth Godin it means, “…a term to describe people who willingly alter their lifestyle to make less of an impact on the environment.”  Personally, it will always mean the sound made when I walk across the snow covered ground when it’s about 10 degrees (like today outside my door).  Of course, what it means to alter one’s lifestyle to make a positive impact is a bit more of a tricky question.

In fact, turning to the world of agriculture, it has always been thought that grass-fed beef steers rather than corn-fed steers are more environmentally friendly (sorry, crunchier). However, a recent study by J.L. Capper (Washington State University) and R.A. Cady (Elanco) paints a different picture.

“The Environmental Impact of Corn-Fed vs. Grass-Fed Beef Finishing Systems” was presented at the ASAS/ADSA 2010 Joint Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The brief paper concludes that:

  • “Reduced growth rate in grass‐finishing systems increases finishing period length, resource use and methane emissions per kg beef
  •  Reduced slaughter weight and dressing % in grass‐fed steers increases the number of animals required to produce a set amount of beef
  •  The perception of grass‐fed beef as being more sustainable than corn‐fed beef does not align with true sustainability when producing an equivalent amount of food from each system.”

 This study (and others) should be taken very seriously in light of the continued demands on the world’s farmers.  Bill Lesher, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative said, “We have 40 years in which to double agricultural output, but we have to do it in a sustainable fashion with the same amount of land, less water and reduced inputs.” We need to continue to look at the science of food production, not succumb to the emotional arguments. Here is a link to the recent article (and other research) by Dr. Capper.

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The Food and Water Watch (FWW) has always been vocal about their concerns regarding the environment. Like most of us, they share a desire for a clean healthy environment – I suppose they might even describe themselves as crunchy. But they also have been vocal in their opposition to large livestock operations.

FWW recently released their latest version of the “Factory Farm Report Map.” This interactive map allows you to go to each state and look up the “density” of the livestock farming practices by each county and also which animals are being housed.

According to the FWW website, “It’s no accident that factory farms have spread across the country. Weak environmental rules and bad farm policy have allowed factory farms to take over livestock production.”  FWW then provides a link with a pre-written letter you can send to the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Lisa Jackson, urging the Administrator to “…act swiftly to create a Clean Water Act permitting program” for large livestock.

I wonder if they would change their view of “Factory Farms” if they read Dr. Capper’s report. It might be an interesting discussion over a pint of (organic) beer. 

Finally, we continue to encourage agriculture to be proactive in complying with environmental regulations, including the recently amended Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans. We have an article that will be out very shortly in Hoard’s Dairyman that will provide a quick overview of the SPCC requirements. If you need an SPCC plan, there may be no better time than during the winter months to develop your plan. If you have questions or need assistance, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248.932.0228.

Environmental Regulatory Changes in Michigan

As you are likely aware, there are a number of environmental regulatory changes taking place in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE or DNRE) has changed more than in name alone; and this too may again change as rumors circulate about Governor elect Snyder again splitting the department. We have attended several working group meetings and have had many in-depth discussions regarding how these changes may affect our clients. Below, we have provided a few noteworthy changes to Michigan Public Act 451 that you may want to consider.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the Baseline Environmental Assessment (BEA) was not eliminated. There has, however, been significant changes, including aligning the BEA process more with the Federal All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) rules and more specifically, the Bonafide Perspective Purchaser. Further, the BEA “N,” “D,” and “S” designations will be eliminated. It is also worth noting that instead of a multitude of cleanup criteria, there will be two; residential and non-residential. Non-residential will default to the current industrial criteria.

As it relates to No Further Action (NFA) – when all cleanup criteria has been satisfied, you can submit a report to seek an NFA determination. MDNRE must review your submittal within 150 days (or 180 days if public notice is required). A no response by MDNRE within the time frame is a default approval. A word to the wise going forward would be to consider cautiously acquisition of properties with NFA determinations, as it could be a default determination (i.e., due diligence should be a verb).

Municipalities have historically been exempt from the Due Care obligations under Part 201 of PA 451; this will no longer be true. Due Care, for those not aware, is basically a provision within Part 201 that says if you have “contamination” above residential levels, (e.g., a purchaser qualifies for a Baseline Environmental Assessment), you must have a plan in place outlining how you are fulfilling your due care obligations. Depending on the nature and extent of the contaminant and the type of land use, Due Care plans can be very simple to very complex. Due care plans will have a different look, as they will now have to reflect the requirements of continuing obligations under AAI.

Again, this is a very brief overview of some of the changes that may affect you and your future decisions. If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Matthew Schroeder, PE (mschroeder@dragun.com) or Jeffrey Bolin, CHMM (jbolin@dragun.com) at 248.932.0228.