March 21, 2017

March 21, 2017

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March 20, 2017

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Green Groups Petition EPA to Overhaul CAFO Regulations

In a wide ranging, 58-page petition criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) (and various state counterpart agencies’) approach to the regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Water Act, nearly three dozen NGOs filed a petition on March 8, 2017 urging EPA to undertake comprehensive rulemaking to substantially revise its federal regulations on the subject. Among other things, the petition requests a rebuttable evidentiary presumption that all large CAFOs discharge pollutants to jurisdictional waters, which would directly conflict with controlling legal precedent regarding the limits of EPA’s jurisdiction under the federal law. The petition also seeks a severe limitation of a statutory exemption for agricultural runoff caused by storm events, and the extension of the rule to hold so-called “integrators” responsible for discharges from unrelated contract livestock producers. The petition attempts to reignite the debate concerning the adequacy of EPA rules applicable to large livestock operations, a debate that has been the subject of prior court decisions at the federal circuit court of appeals level. The petition is unlikely to stir any interest in the Trump administration or EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who recently vowed to return the agency to the “rule of order” and follow established court precedents and Congressional directives.

Large CAFOs are livestock operations that confine more than 1,000 animal units (a calculation of species-specific weight) for more than 45-days in any 12-month period. The recent trend in livestock production has been fewer farms that manage more animal numbers. This production method boasts management efficiencies as a result of scale, and proponents argue environmental impacts from livestock can be better managed via confinement and containment than rather dispersion across the country. This production method has brought with it opposition from those who live nearby the operations as well as those opposed to the scale of production.

The petition argues that substantial rule revisions are required to address everything from faulty manure storage and nutrient management technical standards to discharges of heavy metals and pharmaceuticals it alleges are present in livestock excrement. The petition alleges the federal response is needed to “fill the gaps” that state level permitting programs leave due to inadequate resources and permitting programs.

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About this Author

David A. Crass agribusiness law attorney Michael best Law Firm
Partner; Industry Group Chair, Agribusiness, Food & Beverage

David’s practice sits squarely at the intersection of the food-water-energy nexus. His work in the areas of environmental, regulatory, agricultural production, manufacturing and distribution, and energy projects gives him the depth of experience necessary to counsel clients who will be feeding and powering a projected global population of nine billion people by 2050—at a time when resource scarcity and consumer confidence require an ongoing commitment to stewardship and sustainability.

David grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and maintains a presence in Michael Best’s Madison, WI...

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Cameron F. Field, transactional practice attorney, Michael Best, law firm
Associate

Cameron brings a broad focus to his work advocating for clients in the agribusiness, food and beverage, and energy industries. He assists clients in navigating the state and federal regulatory process and evaluating strategic business decisions. Clients rely on Cameron for well-informed counsel on water and air permitting matters, as well as on hazardous waste reporting and liability questions. 

For example, Cameron advises on risk factors involved in the purchase, sale, and cleanup of contaminated properties. Relying on his diverse background in environmental law, Cameron seeks to keep clients aware of and ready for changing laws and regulations that may impact their business.

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Leah Hurgten Ziemba, Michael Best Law Firm, Agribusiness and Energy Attorney
Partner, Industry Group Chair

Leah takes a big-picture approach in advising clients as they face challenges on environmental, food safety, and regulatory compliance issues. She draws on experience gained in cases involving the EPA, FDA, and other public agencies.

Leah’s success as a counselor, litigator and negotiator reflects her combination of subject matter expertise, industry knowledge, and creativity. Her work includes:

  • Investigating, assessing, and remediating vapor intrusion issues at sites with historic solvent contamination...

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