Groups Sue EPA For Not Disclosing Factory Farm Info

Environmental and rights groups say the EPA is required to disclose locations of factory farms under the Clean Water Act.
By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    Cattle on the Envionmental Protection Agency experimental farm in Las Vegas, Nevada May, 1972. (Photo/Charles O'Rear via Wikimedia Commons)

    Cattle on the Environmental Protection Agency experimental farm in Las Vegas, Nevada May, 1972. (Photo/Charles O’Rear via Wikimedia Commons)

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to backpedal on a policy requiring livestock farmers to reveal their addresses and personal information is being legally challenged by environmental and animal rights advocates. On Aug. 28, groups filed a lawsuit claiming the information is necessary to enforce regulations and mandatory under the Clean Water Act.

    In July, the Sierra Club and Pew Charitable Trust requested the EPA turn over information related to livestock farming locations in more than 20 states, claiming the information was necessary to monitor whether such operations were complying with the Clean Water Act.

    Yet just before the EPA was set to hand over the documents, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau filed a lawsuit on behalf of Minnesota farmers, who strongly objected to this information being released to the public for fear that they would be targets of attacks from what they consider to be radical advocacy groups. The lawsuit alleged the release of such documents would be a violation of the Privacy Act.

    “It had nothing to do with the environment and shouldn’t have been released,” Michael Formica, Chief Environmental Counsel for National Pork Producers Council, told Mint Press News in July. “That’s the completely outrageous part of everything that happened.”

    The EPA complied, resisting requests to release the documents. Now, environmental and animal rights groups are suing the federal agency for its decision to pedal back from its 2011 policy to collect and make farmers’ information public.

    “The EPA is withdrawing the proposal to collect CAFO information by rule,” the EPA said in its summary regarding the proposed rule withdrawal. “Instead, the EPA, where appropriate, will collect CAFO information using existing sources of information, including state NPDES programs, other regulations, and other programs at the federal, state, and local level. The EPA believes, at this time, it is more appropriate to obtain CAFO information to be submitted pursuant to a rule. Today’s withdrawal does not preclude the Agency from initiating the same or similar rulemaking at a future date.”

    Environmental and human rights organizations claim this goes against the Clean Water Act.

    The Clean Water Act, a federal law, requires the EPA to collect information of owners or operators of “any point source,” as stated in Section 308 of the Act. This is what the coalition of environmental and human rights groups —  the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Iowa citizens for Community Improvement and the Integrity Project — are using as the basis for their lawsuit, filed Aug. 28.

    The organizations claim the information regarding the location of livestock farms, otherwise known as Controlled Animal Feedlot Operations, is necessary to monitor that such operations are in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Of key concern is animal overcrowding, which can lead to a combination runoff of animal waste that is capable of polluting local water sources.

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