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U.S. De-Regulates Factory Farm Pollution
On the heels of a decision to allow factory farms to apply for permits to discharge waste into waterways, the Bush administration on Thursday exempted the industry from reporting hazardous air emissions to the federal government, prompting a consumer group to accuse the outgoing president of undoing years of environmental protections and "putting millions of Americans at risk."
The manure produced at factory farms, where tens of thousands of animals are raised for food in congested facilities, accounts for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, while 19 percent of all U.S. emissions come from transportation, notes Food & Water Watch. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision has alarmed climate and consumer rights activists alike because it lets industrial-size farms refrain from disclosing the quantity of hazardous substances -- notably the greenhouse gas methane -- emitted by animal waste.
"Today's action by the Bush EPA is nothing more than a giveaway to big agribusiness at the expense of the public health and of local communities located near large factory farms," U.S. Representative John Dingell said, according to Pork Magazine, a business publication for professional pork producers.
According to his Web site, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency "will strictly regulate pollution from large CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), with fines for those that violate tough standards."
Bush Administration Exempts Factory Farms From Regulation
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director
From: Food & Water Watch
"The latest in a long list of midnight regulations released by the Bush Administration to undermine federal environmental standards is the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule, published today, that will let factory farms off the hook from reporting hazardous air emissions. This move to exempt confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from reporting requirements sends a clear message that EPA is no longer interested in doing its job.
"Instead, EPA has put itself in the livestock industry's pocket after years of pressure to exempt factory farms from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and the emissions reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). While EPA did not completely shut the door on the air reporting requirements of CAFOs in this rule - since they will be required to report to state and local air health authorities - the agency will not be holding these factory farms accountable under federal environmental law for their air pollution emissions. Coupled with the self-certification process recently approved by EPA for CAFOs to apply for permits to discharge pollutants in waterways under the Clean Water Act, this rule today demonstrates EPA is walking away from its responsibilities to regulate pollution from CAFOs.
"Large confinement livestock operations can be significant sources of pollution affecting hundreds of communities all over the country. They emit toxic chemicals such as phosphorus, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide that can harm human health and cause hazardous air and water pollution. The reporting requirements of CERCLA and EPCRA provided the small but vital amount of information communities could access about the pollutants they were exposed to.
"This last-ditch effort by a lame-duck administration to undo years of environmental protections is putting millions of Americans at risk."
The rule can be viewed at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-30003.htm