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E-M:/ Re: Michigan Environmental Council Capitol Update 6-20-06 - CAFOs

House Agriculture Committee today passed legislation that will exempt large factory farms from having to comply with the Clean Water Act. 
The bills, all of them substitutes, were given to the public minutes before being taken up in committee.
Although we agree with the intent of the bills in trying to encourage farms to enroll in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) program, we beleive they go too far in exempting them from coverage under the Clean Water Act.    
Actions is expected on the bill in the House on Wednesday.  MEC continues to urge members to support agreements which were developed between the Sierra Club, environmental community, Farm Bureau, and state agencies.   
In brief, the new bills do the following:
HB 5711 (H-6) - New broad exemption for sewage discharges that occurs during a rain events.  Factory farms under the MAEAP would have no civil or criminal liability for discharges.
HB 5712 (H-4) - Exempts large CAFOs under the MAEAP program (or even those who have just applied) from having to get Clean Water Act permits. 
HB 5713 (H-4) - Requires the MDEQ to prepare a booklet identifing environmental laws of interest to farming operations. 
HB 5714 (H-4) - Prohibits people from putting in aninimous complaints regarding factory farms.  If a party puts in three unverified complaints than can be assessed costs for further complaints.  
HB 5715  (H-_) and HB 5716 (H-_) - Makes some grant or loan money available to factory farms. 
HB 6219 (H-2) - Adds some new definitions, including one for MAEAP.  Some concerns have been raised that this program is not part of state law but is not providing exemptions for permits for enrollees.
HB 6220 - Giver priority for water quality monitoring grants to communities with high concentrations of livestock production facilities.     
Submitted by:

James Clift
Kate Madigan
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Ste 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9539