Would anyone care about a factory farm (CAFO) if it was regulated, humane and protected waterways from getting polluted? Probably not. I myself am against government attempting to over-regulate individual farmers and ranchers, NAIS style (or whateve the USDA is calling that now). Does that mean I believe that I as an individual should have the ability to ruin shared water resources? No. Does it mean a large factory farm should be able to do so?IF a CAFO is doing so, should citizens be able to know who is doing it? In a transparent government, we believe yes.
What might go into waterways? From EPA website on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
The major environmental problem associated with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is the large volume of animal waste generated in concentrated areas. If manure and wastewater are not properly managed, pollutants can be released into the environment. States have consistently reported to EPA that agricultural activities, including CAFOs, are leading sources of pollutants such as nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens (bacteria), and organic enrichment (low dissolved oxygen) that are contributing to water quality impairment in U.S. surface waters. Adverse impacts on ecosystems and human health associated with discharges of animal wastes include fish kills, algal blooms, and fish advisories, contamination of drinking water sources, and transmission of disease-causing bacteria and parasites associated with food and waterborne diseases.
Does anyone want to seriously disagree keeping drinking water free of contamination and disease is an issue we should overlook?
To reduce water impairments from CAFOs, EPA established CAFOs as a national priority and developed the Clean Water Act: Concentrated Feeding Operations Strategy Summary of 2008 -2010 (PDF) (3pp, 163K, About PDF) to address CAFOs.
EPA Regions worked closely with states under the national enforcement initiative to identify areas where CAFOs are having, or may have, a serious environmental or human health impact. EPA expects that the targeted CAFO universe will generally consist of large and medium CAFOs that are discharging, or are designed, constructed, operated, or maintained such that a discharge to a water of the United States is likely to occur.
If you don't know where the CAFOS are, then how can you know if they could be causing a "serious environmental or human health impact"? Ought that to wait until AFTER there's a human health impact that surfaces to address? Taka a look on that same page for all the instances in which CAFOS were illegally discharging waste. Here's one example.
In FY 2010, EPA issued an administrative compliance order against a beef cattle feedlot near Grand View, Idaho that will significantly reduce the amount of bacteria, nutrients, and other pollutants flowing from the feedlot into the Snake River and the Ted Trueblood National Wildlife Refuge by over an estimated one million pounds.
The Snake River is impaired due to high levels of bacteria and nutrients that reduce the oxygen available in the water to support aquatic life. The presence of pathogens in this river poses risks to human health from waterborne pathogens that cause disease.
So what about this section 308 rule about CAFO reporting? First, in 2008, EPA left it up to CAFO operators to determine when they needed to apply for an NPDES permit. If a CAFO didn't apply for a permit, then how the heck would a state or any other entity know if they NEEDED to do so? So some environmental organizations (or, as Sid Miller would have it eco-terrorists! (can't take Sid Miller seriously when he labels people this way) challenged the 2008 CAFO rule in court. The only reason that the lawsuit didn't get to court is because the EPA first agreed to a settlement which include Rule 308.
In addition to the legal challenges launched by the CAFO industry in Waterkeeper Alliance and Pork Producers, the EPA faced opposition to its 2008 CAFO rule from environmental groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance had petitioned the Ninth Circuit for review of the rule, but they chose to sever their claims after the court consolidated their petition with those of CAFO industry representatives and transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit under the caption of National Pork Producers Council v. EPA. Instead, the environmental groups agreed to a dismissal of their claims without prejudice and subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with the EPA.
This settlement agreement required the EPA, pursuant to its authority under section 308 of the CWA, to propose a rule that would impose on CAFOs the duty to provide information about their facilities to the EPA, regardless of whether or not a facility holds a NPDES permit. Section 308 authorizes the EPA to gather information from CAFOs by virtue of their status as point-source dischargers and to impose penalties if the facilities fail to produce the information. The EPA committed to take final action on the rule by July 13, 2012. The information to be obtained from CAFOs, as listed in the settlement agreement, included the following:
(1) The name and address of the owner and operator;
(2) If a facility operated on a contractual basis with another facility, the name and address of the integrator;
(3) The location (longitude and latitude) of the operation;
(4) The type of facility;
(5) The number and types of animals;
(6) The method and capacity of manure storage;
(7) The quantity of manure, process wastewater, and litter the facility generated annually;
(8) Whether the CAFO disposed of manure by applying it to agricultural lands;
(9) The acreage a facility had available for applying waste to land;
(10) If the CAFO applied waste to agricultural land, whether it did so in accordance with a nutrient management plan and applied manure at agronomically correct rates;
(11) If the CAFO land-applies, whether it kept records on its application of waste to the land as federal rules required;
(12) If the CAFO did not apply waste to agricultural lands, what alternative uses of manure it employed to dispose of litter or wastewater;
(13) Whether the CAFO transferred manure off site, in what quantity, and the identity of the recipients; and
(14) Whether the CAFO had applied for an NPDES permit.
You can read in that previous link some interesting discussion of the issues surrounding EPA getting information, including geographic locations of CAFOs.
But then, on July 13, 2012, EPA withdrew its rule from consideration. Note that the information EPA was collecting was entirely lawful.
“EPA believes, at this time, it is more appropriate to obtain CAFO information by working with federal, state, and local partners instead of requiring CAFO information to be submitted pursuant to a rule.” In other words, the agency expressed a preference for gathering information on CAFOs as it was done before the agency ever drafted the proposed rule, despite the 2008 GAO report and court order in NRDC v. EPA.
Since this had been a condition of a settement agreement, how did the environmentalists involved in that lawsuit react? They did a FOIA (Freedom of Information Request) to see what the EPA was maintaining on CAFOS. Since EPA was then essentially relying on other sources, such as state reporting for this information, was it accurate and did it show that the EPA was regulating the CAFOS? No.
When withdrawing the proposed 308 Rule, the EPA stated that it could gather data necessary to regulate CAFOs from existing state records. Relying on states for accurate data presents challenges not only because of inconsistent permitting and data collection, but also because the states’ NPDES permitting requirements are in most cases not up to date. Of the 38 states that permit CAFOs, their regulations vary in what set of federal CAFO permitting rules they meet. As of the EPA’s reporting in 2011, just under a third of permitting states have up-to-date NPDES permitting regulations. Nearly half of permitting states meet only a decade-old standard, and 16 percent do not even meet that standard.
States’ comments on the 308 Rule reveal conflicting approaches to collecting CAFO data, and even hostility on the part of some states to sharing information with the federal government. On one hand, as the EPA reported, “Generally, state and state association commenters questioned the need for new regulations in light of states already having the information the EPA was seeking by virtue of existing CAFO programs at the state and local level.”
These claims of having complete information are patently false given that state NPDES-permitting programs lack information for unpermitted CAFOs
In August, environmentalists filed a lawsuit against the EPA withdrawing that rule. Press Release
A lawsuit filed by a coalition of community, animal welfare, and environmental organizations against the Environmental Protection Agency challenges the agency’s withdrawal of a proposed rule that would have allowed EPA to collect basic information, like locations and animal population sizes, from factory farms. Reasonable information collection by the agency would have allowed it to create the first ever national database of factory farms and strengthened EPA’s ability to protect waterways from this industry, which is one of the country’s largest sources of water pollution.
So, the issue is that the EPA has the authority to regulate CAFOs, that CAFOS should be permitted, that certain information about those CAFOS is entirely reasonable to know if there is a chance that their discharges can pollute waterways, but Sid Miller wants to terrorize people himself by painting those who reasonably want to have clean waterways as potential *eco-terrorists. Read this and as you do, bear in mind that the EPA answering a lawful FOIA request is NOT a *security breach*. The EPA suspended fulfilling FOIA releases after a lawsuit was filed by some CAFOS
Miller said that the information could be used by eco-terrorists to destroy property and put the lives of farmers, ranchers, and their families at risk
Because operating a polluting CAFO and destroying waterways is not putting the lives of US citizens at risk? .
“Not only has the EPA violated the public trust, it has created unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of American citizens that could lead to the destruction of private property as well as the potential loss of life,” said Miller. “This is an extremely serious security breech and I am calling on our congressional leaders to immediately investigate the matter to ensure that proper steps are taken to mitigate the risk to those whose personal information has been compromised, as well to prevent such a security breech from ever occurring again,” Miller added.
Perhaps Mr Miller needs to read up on FOIA requests, which can be done at all levels of our open government. In a related situation, some years ago the AG in Texas pushed for a rule to be passed AS A LAW to prevent Texas Open Records request from including social security numbers. That is entirely reasonable and if there is some reason why FOIA requests need to not include some personal information, Mr Miller's time would be better spent pushing for Federal laws regarding this.
Miller said that it has been documented that a number of large farms and cattle processing facilities have been targeted in the past by militant groups who believe they are cruel to animals and cause pollution. These so-called “eco-terrorists” have caused millions of dollars of damages. He said that armed with the type of information released by the EPA, these violent and radical environmentalists could wreak havoc upon farms, ranches, and other agricultural facilities across the United States.
Maybe Mr Miller needs to provide some specific examples, with dates not only of these targeted CAFOS but what happened afterwards. I would expect in a law and order system that if this did happen, then the people who intruded on private property were thrown in jail or otherwise punished.
Miller said that EPA officials have told those affected by the security breech that they were sorry for the release of their personal information.
“Saying sorry is not enough,” said Miller. ”These farmers and ranchers deserve to know exactly what steps the EPA and other federal agencies will take to ensure that they are protected from the actions of radical and dangerous eco-terrorists who may be in receipt of their personal information. It is sad day when our own federal government needlessly puts its citizens in harm’s way,” Miller concluded.
Let's discuss privacy for a moment. This isn't an instance of private citizens wanting to keep information that only affects themselves out of the public eye but whether a corporation's information should be public as a way to regulate an industry.
"What led us to intervene is that if the industry groups prevail, that would lead CAFOs to be shielded from the public," says Heinzen. "We want the EPA to do their job, which in part is disclosing public records whenever that's in the public interest, to regulate industries, and to not confuse a factory farm as a personal residence."
This "what is the EPA's job" question is the big one currently up for debate. While the activist groups believe it's around to help bring environment-destroyers to justice using any means necessary, that's not how the CAFOs see it. "Their job isn't to make a bunch of activists's abilities to file harassing lawsuits easier," says Formica. "Their job is to regulate the environment. That's different from creating a massive framework where people can sit at their computer and start plugging away."
The battle is certainly a role-reversal of sorts when it comes to privacy concerns. Over the past decade, the battle over a person's digital information has generally seen big corporations battling for more and more access, less and less privacy. They need that information to make their products work better, the argument goes. (And, more importantly, to have something to sell to advertisers.) But this time around, it's the corporations trying to keep information private.
Attempts by Miller to conflate private ranchers and farmers with defined CAFOS, and anyone who wants clean water as a terrorist should be property ridiculed.