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Waterkeeper Alliance: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (914) 422-4343, or Jeff Odefey

(914) 674-0622 ext. 204

Sierra Club: Eric Huber (303) 449-5595 (Regarding Michigan specific issues: Anne Woiwode (517) 484-2372)

NRDC: Melanie Shepherdson (202) 289-2393 or Elliott Negin (202) 289-2405








NEW YORK (February 28, 2005)--A 2003 Bush administration farm pollution

rule violates the Clean Water Act by allowing large-scale livestock farms

to apply animal waste to land without federal or state oversight or public

input, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York held today. The ruling in

Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA resulted from a lawsuit filed by three

conservations groups, which charged that the rule shielded factory farms

from liability for damage caused by animal waste pollution. (see today’s decision at  http://www.sagady.com/cafo/Water%20Keeper_v_EPA_decision_2_28_05.pdf )


In Michigan, Sierra Club filed a contested case challenge to state issued permits for large-scale livestock factories last year raising the same issues of public access and agency oversight of management plans. The Appeals Court decision is expected to have significant implications for Michigan’s regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations as a result.


The groups, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club and NRDC (Natural Resources

Defense Council), filed the suit in March 2003. The Environmental

Protection Agency had issued the rule in February 2003 under a 1992 consent

decree between the agency and NRDC. It went into effect in April of that

year. ((For a copy of the court ruling, contact Elizabeth Heyd at



"These regulations were the product of a conspiracy between a lawless

industry and compliant public officials in cahoots to steal the public

trust," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance

and an NRDC senior attorney. "I’m grateful that the court has taken the

government and the barons of corporate agriculture to the woodshed for a

well-earned rebuke."


Thirty years ago, Congress identified concentrated animal feeding

operations as point sources of water pollution to be regulated under the

Clean Water Act’s water pollution permitting program. The scale of animal

production at individual operations has dramatically increased since then,

and factory farms today produce 500 million tons of manure a year. In

December 2000, EPA proposed a new rule with initiatives that would have

protected the environment, but the Bush administration stripped them from

the final rule after agribusinesses objected.


Under the Bush administration rule, animal factories were able to continue

to dump millions of gallons of liquefied manure into open pits, called

lagoons, and then spray the liquid over fields. Typically the manure runs

off the fields into nearby streams or seeps into underground water

supplies, polluting water with viruses, bacteria, pesticides, antibiotics,

hormones and excessive nutrients.


The court found that:


The rule illegally allowed factory farms to write the part of their permits

that limit spraying manure on fields without state or federal review or

approval--and without notifying the public.


The EPA had failed to require factory farms to use the necessary

technological controls to reduce bacteria and other pathogens from their



The rule violated the Clean Water Act by exempting factory farms from

meeting water quality standards.


"The court agreed that polluters can’t be trusted to write their own

permits," said Melanie Shepherdson, an attorney with NRDC’s water program.

"They have to be held accountable because they pose such a major threat to

public health."


"The court agreed that there is a better way than the Bush administration’s

plan," said Eric Huber, a Sierra Club attorney. "When technology and

existing law can keep animal waste out of our rivers, why should Americans

have to settle for a plan that puts polluters before the public?"





Waterkeeper Alliance is an international grassroots organization connecting

and empowering 129 local Waterkeeper programs. Each Waterkeeper program is

the voice for their waterway, serving as the investigator, advocate,

scientist, educator and lawyer for their local waterbody.  More information

is available at www.waterkeeper.org.


Inspired by their personal connection to nature, the Sierra Club’s more

than 700,000 members work together to protect the planet. The Sierra Club

is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental

organization in America. For more information, go to www.sierraclub.org.


The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization

of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to

protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has

more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices

in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information on

NRDC is available at its Web site, www.nrdc.org.