TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would consider tightening regulations on large livestock farms that release fertilizers and other pollutants into waterways.
The EPA has not changed its rules since 2008, which deals with the nation’s largest animal business, which has thousands of pigs, chickens and cows. The EPA said it had no plans to make any changes in 2021, but said it was reconsidering Friday following a lawsuit from environmental groups.
While the EPA does not promise stronger requirements, it has acknowledged the need for more up-to-date data on the extent of the problem and affordable ways to limit it.
“The EPA has decided to gather additional information and conduct a detailed study of these issues in order to be able to make an informed decision about whether to make rulemaking,” the agency said.
A new approach has been long overdue for Food & Water Watch, whose lawsuit caused the cancellation of its agency.
“For decades, the EPA’s lax rules have allowed devastating and widespread public health and environmental impacts on vulnerable communities across the country,” Tarah Heinzen, the group’s legal director, said Monday. said to
Beef, chicken and pork have become more affordable staples in the American diet due to industry consolidation and the rise of megafarms. They often lack basic information such as the number of stools, how to handle manure, etc.
Waste and fertilizer runoff from operations, and runoff from manure-spread farmlands, pollute streams, rivers, and lakes. It is a major cause of algal blooms that pose a hazard to many waterways and dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie.
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA regulates large farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and subject them to federal pollution permits. Federal law requires only those who know to discharge waste to obtain a permit, although some states require that they do so.
According to the EPA’s latest tally, 6,266 of the country’s 21,237 CAFOs are licensed.
In that plan, the authorities said the regulations would impose “substantial and detailed requirements” on production areas (barns and feedlots where animals are kept, and manure storage facilities) and land on which manure and wastewater are applied. said it does.
While the rule prohibits discharges into waterways, it also prohibits production area discharges caused by heavy rainfall and stormwater-related emissions from waste-applied agricultural land according to plans to control factors such as timing and quantity. The exception is spills.
In deciding whether to revise the rule, EPA said it would consider how well it controls pollution and how much it would improve by changing the rule.
The agency acknowledges that data on emissions to waterways is “sparse” and has a preliminary analysis based on reports from 16 CAFOs. In addition to seeking information from more farms, EPA said it will assess whether emissions are spread nationwide or concentrated in specific states or regions.
It also examines practices and techniques that have developed since the regulation was last revised, their potential effectiveness in preventing releases, and the costs to farm owners and operators. Under the law, new requirements for farms must be “technically feasible and economically achievable.”
According to the EPA, revising water pollution rules typically costs several years, three full-time employees, and $1 million a year in contractor assistance. The study will determine whether “the potential environmental benefits of having rulemaking justify the significant investment of resources needed,” it said.
Livestock groups say government regulations are strong enough that voluntary measures such as planting cover crops in the off-season and buffer zones between croplands and waterways are the best ways to control runoff. The Federation of American Farmers declined to comment on Monday.
Environmental groups say more farm regulations are needed and better construction of manure lagoons to prevent leakage of manure, often washed away during storms and thaws It claims to ban practices such as spraying waste on frozen ground.
Food & Water Watch staff attorney Emily Miller said: “Standards need to be strengthened further so that emissions can actually be prevented.”