Groups sue EPA over farm emissions
January 16, 2009
• Challenge Bush Administration’s factory farm exemption
• ‘The Bush administration's parting gift’
A coalition of environmental groups is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a last-minute Bush administration rule that exempts factory farms from federal laws requiring them to alert government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the surrounding community.
The environmental law firm Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of the groups, arguing that the exemption will harm people living and working near factory farms.
Earthjustice is representing the Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, the Humane Society of the United States, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future and Center for Food Safety.
So-called “factory farms,” formally known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs, are large-scale livestock facilities that confine large numbers of animals in relatively small spaces. A large factory farm may contain upwards of 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens.
Such facilities generate “a massive amount” of urine and feces, which is commonly liquefied and either stored under the facility or nearby in open air lagoons, Earthjustice says.
The waste is known to release high levels of toxic pollutants into the air such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.
Like other industrial facilities, federal law has required these farms to notify government officials when toxic pollution levels exceed public safety thresholds. The Bush administration's last-minute rulemaking now exempts factory farms from filing these reports.
"Factory farms commonly release unsafe levels of toxic air pollution that can be dangerous for workers and nearby residents," says Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell. "The Bush administration's parting gift to factory farms is to help them guard that dirty secret."