FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(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
RULE THREATENS PUBLIC HEALTH, CONSERVATION GROUPS SAY
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
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 )
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
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
"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
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
NRDC is available at its Web site, www.nrdc.org.