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The EPA's Failure to Track Factory Farms

The EPA's Failure to Track Factory Farms

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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).
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).

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Published by: Food and Water Watch on Aug 28, 2013
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09/20/2013

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Concenraed animal eeding operaions (CAFOs) are aciliiesha raise large numbers o livesock in conined condiions,leading o high concenraions o manure and waer pollu-ion. In he spring o 2013, he U.S. Environmenal ProecionAgency (EPA) released documens in response o a Freedom o Inormaion Ac (FOIA) reques ha deailed he EPA’s iner-nal process or proposing a CAFO reporing rule, known as he“308 Rule” under Secion 308 o he Clean Waer Ac (CWA).The 308 Rule would have required all CAFOs naionwide osubmi basic inormaion o he EPA, including: he ownername and conac inormaion, he locaion as deined by lai-ude and longiude or sree address, he Naional PolluanDischarge Eliminaion Sysem (NPDES) permi coverage, hemaximum number and ype o each animal in coninemen,and he acres o land available or land applicaion o manure.The EPA proposed he rule in Ocober 2011 and wihdrew iunder indusry pressure in July 2012.The documens provided hrough he FOIA reques reveal heEPA’s ailure o collec daa abou CAFOs across he naion aswell as criical weaknesses in he CAFO permiting process.
Permiting Is Incomplee:
As o 2011, he EPA esimaedha only 41 percen o NPDES-deined CAFOs acually hadNPDES permis.
Records Are Scatered and Incomplee:
ŗ
22 saes submited CAFO records o he EPA’s inernal In-egraed Compliance Inormaion Sysem daabase. Nine o hose saes had signiican records shoralls. 
ŗ
15 saes had no CAFO daa available in any EPA sysem orvia oher elecronic public access.
Sae Permiting Regulaions Are Oudaed:
As o heEPA’s reporing in 2011, only 32 percen o he 38 saes hagraned permis or CAFOs had up-o-dae regulaions. Nearlyhal o permiting saes me only a decade-old sandard, and16 percen did no even mee ha sandard.Neiher he EPA nor any oher ederal agency collecs compre-hensive daa on he number o CAFOs or heir size or locaion.This lack o daa impairs he EPA’s abiliy o enorce permi-ing requiremens, ideniy sources o severe waer qualiyproblems, and evaluae CAFOs’ overall impac on waerqualiy. The EPA has aciliy-speciic inormaion or oher poinsource polluing indusries and shares ha inormaion in publicdaabases, such as he Toxics Release Invenory, bu he agencyhas no achieved he same level o ransparency or CAFOs.The proposed 308 Rule would have required all CAFOs na-ionwide o submi basic inormaion o he EPA, such as helocaion, conac inormaion, number and ype o animals,permi saus, and land available or wase applicaion. TheEPA inexplicably wihdrew he 308 Rule, claiming ha heagency would rely on exising daa sources, bu his analysisdemonsraes ha hose sources are weak and incomplee.The EPA’s own indings conradic is raionale or wihdraw-ing he 308 Rule, and he EPA does no oherwise jusiy ischange in posiion. Tha’s why Food & Waer Wach, IowaCiizens or Communiy Improvemen, he EnvironmenalInegriy Projec, he Cener or Food Saey and he HumaneSociey o he Unied Saes are suing he EPA o orce i o dowha i should have done in he irs place: creae an accurae,publicly available daabase o all CAFOs in he Unied Saes.
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The EPA’s Failure
to Track Factory Farms
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In he spring o 2013, hree environmenal organizaionsobained documens rom he U.S. Environmenal ProecionAgency (EPA) hrough he Freedom o Inormaion Ac (FOIA).The documens relaed o he EPA’s process o gahering daaabou concenraed animal eeding operaions (CAFOs). Thosedocumens were shared wih several organizaions, includingFood & Waer Wach. On April 4, 2013, he EPA ook he un-characerisic move o asking or he original se o documensback due o pressure rom he livesock indusry and Con-gress, ofering a limied subse o he documens as a replace-men.
1
Food & Waer Wach declined o reurn he originaldocumens o he EPA.CAFOs are aciliies ha raise large numbers o livesock inconined condiions, leading o high concenraions o waseand waer polluion.
2
The documens obained rom he FOIAreques deailed he EPA’s recen rulemaking process, knownas he “308 Rule,” ha would have required basic daa collec-ion abou CAFOs under Secion 308 o he Clean Waer Ac(CWA). These hundreds o documens provided rom he FOIAreques reveal he EPA’s ailure o collec daa abou heselarge indusrial livesock aciliies across he naion as well asweaknesses in he CAFO permiting process.The release o documens was me wih ouraged responsesrom mea indusry and livesock organizaions, whichclaimed violaions o privacy.
3
These organizaions havemissed he poin: CAFOs discharge polluans ino naionalwaers, and hey should be reaed like any oher polluingaciliy under he CWA. Federal regulaion should includeNaional Polluion Discharge Eliminaion Sysem (NPDES)permis or all CAFOs and creae a public naional daabasewih basic inormaion abou he ownership, operaion andlocaion o hese aciliies and heir scale. Releasing his daashould no be conroversial. Bu o make maters worse, heEPA has ailed or decades o even collec i, under pressurerom he livesock and poulry indusry o hide heir aciliiesrom public view.Food & Waer Wach, Iowa Ciizens or Communiy Improve-men, he Environmenal Inegriy Projec, he Cener orFood Saey and he Humane Sociey o he Unied Saes aresuing he EPA o orce i o do wha i should have done inhe irs place: creae an accurae, publicly available daabaseo all CAFOs in he Unied Saes. I is impossible o regulaeCAFO aciliies efecively wihou even compiling a lis o how many exis. The EPA should reissue he 308 Rule as acriical sep in reducing polluion rom CAFOs.
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According o he EPA, agriculure remains a major source o waer polluion.
4
Saes have ideniied animal eeding opera-ions speciically as he polluers o almos 20,000 miles o riv-ers and sreams and over 250,000 acres o lakes, reservoirs andponds.
5
While livesock wase in appropriae quaniies canserve a useul purpose as erilizer or crops, he huge concen-raion o animals in CAFOs leads o excessive concenraionso wase.
6
Large-scale commercial livesock and poulry opera-ions produce an esimaed 500 million ons o manure eachyear, more han hree imes he sewage produced by he enireU.S. human populaion.
7
Ye, unlike human wase, livesockwase rom CAFOs is unreaed and is usually applied direclyo ields as erilizer, oen a raes ha exceed hose neces-sary o erilize crops.
8
Many sudies have ound ha CAFO wase conaminaesnearby bodies o waer wih numerous polluans, includingnirogen, phosphorus, hormones, anibioics and pahogens.
9
 According o he Governmen Accounabiliy Ofice (GAO),“manure and wasewaer rom animal eeding operaions can ad-versely impac waer qualiy hrough surace runof and erosion,direc discharges o surace waer, spills and oher dry-weaherdischarges, and leaching ino he soil and groundwaer.
10
 
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The CWA, passed in 1972, gave he EPA he auhoriy o regu-lae any eniy discharging polluion ino naional waerways,including CAFOs. The EPA has considered CAFOs a “poinsource” o waer polluion since he 1970s.
11
The EPA iniiallyocused is efors on indusrial sies and sewage reamenplans, leaving CAFOs virually unregulaed or years.
12
TheEPA began requiring Naional Polluan Discharge EliminaionSysem (NPDES) permis or some CAFOs in 2003, wih revi-sions made o he regulaions in 2008.
13
 The permis, issued by he EPA or a sae agency under heEPA’s auhoriy, se “speciic limis and condiions” on howCAFOs discharge wase ino local bodies o waer.
14
The 2008CAFO regulaions include signiican weaknesses, oremosamong hem relying on individual CAFO operaors o deer-mine i hey discharge or inend o discharge and hus wheh-er hey should apply or a permi.
15
According o a 2003 GAOrepor, however, “EPA oficials believe ha mos large opera-ions eiher discharge or have a poenial o discharge animalwase o surace waers and should have discharge permis.
16
 Jus as worrisome as he inconsisen permiting is he lack o inormaion he EPA possesses abou CAFOs. Neiher he EPAnor any oher ederal agency collecs comprehensive daa onhe number o CAFOs or heir size or locaion. Wihou hainormaion, he EPA simply canno regulae CAFOs efecive-ly.
17
The lack o daa afecs he EPA’s abiliy o enorce per-miting requiremens, ideniy sources o severe waer qualiyproblems, evaluae CAFOs’ overall impac on waer qualiyand promoe bes managemen pracices on CAFOs.
18
A-emps by he EPA o miigae his siuaion, such as compil-ing esimaes based on NPDES permis issued o CAFOs, have
 
3
no been successul.
19
The GAO recommended in 2008 ha heEPA “complee is efors o develop a comprehensive naionalinvenory o permited CAFOs and incorporae appropriaeinernal conrols o ensure he qualiy o he daa.”
20
 
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The 2008 CAFO permiting rules changed he legal hresholdor when a CAFO mus apply or an NPDES permi. The EPAle i up o CAFO operaors o deermine, and hereby limiedhe number o CAFOs likely o obain NPDES permis.
21
As aresul, hose CAFOs no seeking permis would no have oprovide basic inormaion o heir sae permiting auhoriyor he EPA hrough he permiting process.Several environmenal organizaions iled a lawsui againshe EPA o challenge he 2008 CAFO rule. As par o he Setle-men Agreemen, he EPA agreed o propose a CAFO inor-maion collecion rule under Secion 308 o he CWA.
22
TheProposed CAFO Reporing Rule (“308 Rule”) acknowledgedhe shorcomings o he EPA’s daa collecion, including heimpossibiliy o ensuring compliance wih he law wihouha daa.
23
The EPA also noes, “
unlike many oher poin source indusries 
, EPA does no have aciliy-speciic inormaion orall CAFOs in he Unied Saes” (emphasis added).
24
In oherwords, i is possible or he agency o collec such inormaionor polluing aciliies. I simply hasn’ been done or CAFOs.On Ocober 21, 2011, he EPA published he 308 Rule, whichincluded wo poenial EPA acions o collec inormaionrom CAFOs. The irs proposal would have required all CA-FOs naionwide o submi basic inormaion o he EPA; hesecond proposal would have required he EPA o selec ocuswaersheds and hen reques basic inormaion rom CAFOslocaed in hose waersheds. The EPA also solicied commenson alernaive ways or he agency o obain he necessaryinormaion abou CAFOs and mee he objecives o he 308Rule.
25
The Setlemen Agreemen required daa o be collecedon up o14 areas o ineres, bu he rule covered only ivebecause he EPA considered he oher inormaion o be ob-ainable rom oher sources.
26
The EPA esimaed ha approxi-maely 20,000 aciliies would have had o repor inormaionunder he 308 Rule.
27
Withdrawal of the Rule
Insead o ollowing hrough and inalizing he rule, however,he EPA puned by wihdrawing he rule in July 2012. In heoficial wihdrawal noice, he EPA claims ha he agencywill use “exising sources o inormaion, including saeNPDES programs, oher regulaions, and oher programs ahe ederal, sae, and local level,”
28
bu as our analysis o EPA

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