The EPA’s Failure to Track Factory Farms
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are facilities that raise large numbers of livestock in confined conditions, leading to high concentrations of manure and water pollution. In the spring of 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that detailed the EPA’s internal process for proposing a CAFO reporting rule, known as the “308 Rule” under Section 308 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The 308 Rule 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 lati- tude 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 documents provided through the FOIA request reveal the EPA’s failure to collect data about CAFOs across the nation as well as critical weaknesses in the CAFO permitting process.