Agriculture in the World

Can a Court Compel the EPA to Protect Communities of Color From CAFO Pollution?


The primary time he caught a fish riddled with sores and boils, Devon Corridor didn’t instantly draw the connection to the hog farms positioned close to his house in Duplin County, North Carolina. But it surely didn’t take lengthy for him to understand that the fish he had grown up catching and consuming had been not secure, possible because of the manure working off the hog lagoons positioned simply upstream.

With greater than 500 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) housing thousands and thousands of pigs, Duplin County is called the “hog capital of the world.” And its residents are paying the worth: Corridor hasn’t gone fishing in additional than 20 years. He doesn’t even drink his personal faucet water for worry of contamination.

“It’s insufferable,” mentioned Corridor.

Devon Hall, executive director of REACH, is fighting against air and water pollution from the CAFOs that surround his community. (Photo credit: Justin Cook for Earthjustice)

Devon Corridor, govt director of REACH, is preventing towards air and water air pollution from the CAFOs that encompass his group. (Picture credit score: Justin Prepare dinner for Earthjustice)

A petition filed as we speak from the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice goals to assist residents like Corridor by altering the way in which CAFOs are categorised below the Clear Water Act. A mountain of analysis over the previous couple a long time has proven the human and environmental well being impacts of water air pollution stemming from CAFOs. And but, as many as two-thirds of the greater than 20,000 CAFOs throughout the nation are unregulated below the Act, leaving them with little to no regulatory oversight of their air pollution discharge.

CAFOs and the Clear Water Act

For 50 years now, the Clear Water Act has ruled water high quality and air pollution throughout the U.S. That’s accomplished partially by means of an Environmental Safety Company (EPA) allow program referred to as the Nationwide Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which caps the quantity of air pollution an entity—comparable to a manufacturing facility farm—can discharge.

However as a result of CAFOs pollute intermittently—that’s, when it rains closely and their manure lagoons overflow, or they spray waste on a area for disposal—it’s tougher to watch them by means of the NPDES.

“Proper now, EPA is utilizing what’s primarily a self-reporting system,” mentioned Alexis Andiman, a senior lawyer with Earthjustice. “The issue there’s, it’s very laborious to test the CAFOs work, as a result of EPA and state companies simply don’t have the sources to exit and work out whether or not each CAFO that claims it’s not discharging really isn’t discharging.”

State companies usually require air pollution permits, too, however many state-run allowing techniques don’t embrace protections for water which can be as stringent because the federal Clear Water Act.

The EPA has tried twice earlier than to provide you with guidelines that might in the end improve the variety of CAFOs required to acquire Clear Water Act permits. Nonetheless, courts struck down the efforts in each circumstances, claiming the foundations went past the scope of the Act by classifying some non-polluting CAFOs as air pollution sources.

A Petition for Change

In its new petition, Earthjustice—together with the Environmental Working Group, Sierra Membership, Pure Assets Protection Council and dozens of different environmental teams throughout the nation—is following up on the EPA’s prior makes an attempt with a selected authorized suggestion. So as to regulate extra CAFOs by means of the Act, the petitioners argue the company ought to undertake a rebuttable presumption that giant CAFOs utilizing moist manure techniques really discharge pollution. In different phrases, the EPA may function below the belief that CAFOs are sources of air pollution—which might require them to get a allow—except confirmed in any other case.

The EPA has tried twice earlier than to provide you with guidelines that might in the end improve the variety of CAFOs required to acquire Clear Water Act permits. Nonetheless, courts struck down the efforts in each circumstances.

“Principally, [if this presumption is adopted,] the thumb is on the size for getting a allow as a result of we all know {that a} allow is normally required,” Andiman mentioned. “So, it flips the script somewhat bit.”

Requiring extra CAFOs to get air pollution permits wouldn’t solely improve regulatory oversight—by capping the amount of air pollution they may emit and fining them in the event that they surpass these caps—it could additionally improve transparency.

“Proper now, it’s not at all times straightforward to search out out the place CAFOs are positioned, how near your home they’re, what number of animals they confine, how they’re coping with that manure,” Andiman mentioned.

Below the Act, that data would turn into extra available, which may assist neighboring communities get a greater sense of what’s impacting their water (and air) high quality. It may additionally open the door to extra lawsuits towards CAFOs which can be violating the phrases of their allow.

The EPA declined to touch upon this particular petition previous to its publication, stating in an electronic mail: “We’ll evaluate the petition after we obtain it.”


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