Posted August 23, 2013

According to an agreement with the Chesapeake BayFoundation (CBF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not seek new regulations further limiting nutrient pollution for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  The EPA announcement is available here.
In 2010, the EPA entered into a settlement agreement with the CBF, in which the EPA agreed to promulgate a new national CAFO rule to control pollution from livestock and poultry farms according to a press release from the National Chicken Council, available here. 
The new agreement, available here, will increase oversight of state programs that regulate livestock operations.  The agreement states that the EPA will assess “each Bay Watershed jurisdiction’s AFO and CAFO programs to determine whether they are consistent with Clean Water Act NPDES requirements and are implemented effectively to achieve” the Watershed Implementation Plan commitments to reduce nutrient pollution.  The EPA will also review CAFO permits by June of 2015 and determine whether revisions to its CAFO regulations are necessary.  Those results will be publically available by June 30, 2018.

A recent study led by the University of Delaware will likely impact the EPA’s review of livestock operations in the Chesapeake Bay.  According to USA today, the study concluded that the EPA has “drastically overestimated the poultry industry’s contribution to water pollution.”  James L. Glancey, professor in the  Bioresources Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments, said that a “multistate study, based on thousands of manure tests, found that actual nitrogen levels in poultry house manure are 55 percent lower” than the EPA’s “decades-old, lab-based standards.”  The results “could lead to a formal proposal as early as next month for changes to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s six-state pollution forecasting model” used to guide restoration and cleanup of goals.  A summary of the study is available here.    

According to an article by the Bay Journal, available here, both “EPA and CBF officials described the agreement as a pragmatic approach that would improve the accountability of existing state programs rather than trying to impose expansive new federal regulations that would likely face protracted court challenges.”  Kim Colbe, CBF vice president for environmental protection and restoration, said that the agreement will ensure the existing programs “are as sharp as they possibly can be, and are very focused on ensuring that the pollution reductions from these animal feeding operations occur as required” under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. 

Eight environmental groups issued a joint statement, saying they were “very disappointed to see the Obama administration backpedal on its commitment to strengthen federal pollution control rules on agricultural operations.”  Poultry groups applauded the settlement between EPA and CBF, stated the new agreement “will help to assure that no false assumptions are made about the potential contribution of livestock and production to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.”