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E-M:/ MI CAFO NPDES (water quality) general permit Hearing Date Set

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>

3-6 and 7-10 pm

The Michigan DEQ is today public noticing hearings to be held on the
proposed water quality statewide permit for concentrated animal feeding
operations (CAFO) in Michigan (a.k.a. CAFO NPDES general permit).  The
proposed permit itself is NOT yet available, according to DEQ, and is
expected to be put out before November 1st (the deadline for written comment
will need to extend the full 30 days from the date the permit is made

The Public Hearing(s) will be held:

Thursday - NOVEMBER 21
Holiday Inn West
7501 West Saginaw Highway
Lansing, MI

The format was described this way:

There will be two sessions on Nov 21, one from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the
other from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Each session will be broken into two parts:
the first half will be a Question and Answer session with knowledgable DEQ
staff (although they aren't sure exactly who will be present to answer
questions). The second half will be a standard hearing format, with hearing
officer, tape recording of testimony, etc., with people submitting cards to
testify and speaking in front of the full group.

Once the draft permit is available, we will provide analysis.  One thing
that all should know is that this is a "general permit", which takes all of
the facilities that meet the definition under its umbrella, providing them
protection if they meet the required standards.

One fairly significant question that has not been answered is whether the
state will also provide to the public a copy of what is called the ECOS
agreement that the state is seeking to sign with the EPA at the same time.
ECOS, acronym for the Environmental Council of the States, is an
organization of state environmental agency Directors, including notably Russ
Harding, who have an agenda of concentrating more environmental regulatory
control at the state level.  (If you wonder where these guys are coming
from, note that Harding is listed as the, get this, Environmental JUSTICE
Work Group of ECOS, as of 10/15/02.) The website for ECOS will be of great
interest to lots of environmentally concerned Michiganders:
http://www.sso.org/ecos/ -- for example, check out the resolultion on
regulating CAFOs, which as I recall Harding pushed for ECOS to adopt:

The ECOS agreement is reportedly being negotiated between EPA and MDEQ or
others in the state, but with absolutely no public review or involvement
expected prior to this agreement be struck and signed.  Even so, it is clear
that this agreement is designed to travel with the permit and direct the
overall context of the state's approach to CAFOs.  While we don't know
details, there is some indication, for example, that the ECOS agreement is
the tool that the state proposes to use to set how inspections of all CAFOs
will occur.  This is quite troubling because in January Russ Harding
committed in a letter to EPA Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner that the
state would undertake "proactive inspections" of all CAFOs, and the specter
of the inspections of potentially polluting CAFOs being conducted out of
reach of normal regulatory oversight is troubling.

Based on reports as well that the MDEQ and MDA have not always seen eye to
eye regarding sharing information about the CAFO issues, one scenario that
seems possible is that the inspections would be conducted by MDA instead of
MDEQ, and the information would then neither be made available to MDEQ nor
to the public.  The idea that we should "trust" the agencies to strike such
a deal with no public input, with no guarantee this information will be made
available when the permit is being discussed, and with what seems likely to
be implications for regulatory oversight of the CAFOs, is rather hard to
accept based on the state's history on this issue.  We are urging the DEQ
and the EPA to release the draft ECOS agreement BEFORE it is signed and get
public input into it. At very least, the agencies owe it to Michigan
residents to assure that the agreement is out for the public to see BEFORE
the permit decision is made.

Anne Woiwode

Anne Woiwode, Staff Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48906
517-484-2372; fax 517-484-3108  anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org
visit the Mackinac Chapter on the web at http://michigan.sierraclub.org

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