Agreement Between EPA and Chesapeake Bay Foundation Kicks Regulation of CAFO Pollution Down the Road
In yet another move to ensure the continuing degradation of waterways by our nation’s factory farms, the Environmental Protection Agency struck a deal with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Wednesday to significantly soften an earlier lawsuit settlement agreement that would have required the Agency to better regulate pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, across the country. The original settlement, entered into in 2010 after CBF filed a lawsuit for the Agency’s failure to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA) in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, called for EPA to strengthen its CAFO regulations.
While these industrialized agricultural facilities continue to be the highest source of pollution in many of our waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, the new pact between EPA and CBF replaced the prospect of more protective regulations nationwide with weak provisions that generally require EPA to do the things that the Agency is already obligated to do (reviews of state permitting programs), along with inspections of a small handful of these polluting facilities in the Bay region. The new deal also focuses solely on the Bay watershed, thereby allowing EPA to continue to ignore every other waterway in the country.
EPA’s latest move follows on the heels of several other recent irresponsible CAFO pollution control approaches enacted by the Agency. In the summer of 2012 EPA abandoned a very basic information-gathering plan designed to better document the discharges that come from these factory farms. This Clean Water Act “308 rule,” which was implemented as part of a settlement agreement with environmental organizations who challenged the Agency’s 2008 CAFO regulations, was jettisoned after industry lobbyists browbeat the Agency into backing down.
Today, the largest polluters of waterways in the country remain largely unregulated and free to continue to discharge with impunity. Allowing EPA to avoid any kind of meaningful CAFO regulation is not going to result in cleaner waterways anywhere, and certainly not in the Bay. With the federal government refusing to do its job when it comes to CAFOs and water pollution, its critical that citizens continue to push EPA to do a better job on CAFO regulations and to demand that real steps finally be taken to address this persistent threat to our nation’s waterways.