Lawsuit tries to force EPA to respond on CAFO regulation
A coalition of public interest and environmental justice organizations filed a lawsuit Friday to compel the EPA to respond to an earlier rule making petition, submitted to the agency in 2017, that asked the EPA to overhaul how large-scale animal production facilities are regulated under the Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit argues that the agency’s five-year delay to respond to the petition is unreasonable and violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies like EPA to respond to petitions “within a reasonable time.” Filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it aims to force EPA to issue a formal response.
The 2017 petition provided a set of instructions for EPA to close loopholes that many environmental groups say have enabled concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to avoid regulation. It also asked the agency to make CAFO permits stronger and more effective.
“This petition provided EPA with a roadmap for how it must finally regulate factory farms as required under the Clean Water Act, and explained why action is critical, ” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen. “EPA’s refusal to even answer simply confirms that it will not hold this industry accountable without legal and public pressure. We will not let EPA continue to delay while factory farms pollute with impunity, endangering public health and fouling our rivers and streams across the country.”
The Clean Water Act defines CAFOs as “point sources” of pollution, which should require CAFOs to follow discharge permits that restrict their pollution discharges into rivers and streams. But, Heinzen said, due to the EPA’s weak regulations, only a small fraction of CAFOs have the required permits thus there is widespread pollution from these facilities in waterways and communities across the country.
Petitioners in the lawsuit include: Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Dakota Rural Action, Dodge County Concerned Citizens, the Environmental Integrity Project, Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Kewaunee CARES, Midwest Environmental Advocates, and North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
The 33 original petitioners include six national public interest advocacy organizations, and twenty-seven state and community-based organizations based in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.