September 28, 2023

Interpretive Summary: EPA rejects environmental activist’s petitions

EPA rejects environmental activist’s petitions

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rejected two petitions sponsored by environmental agencies that would potentially have a negative impact on American farmers and ranchers. The petitions regarded revising the Clean Water Act regulations for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) program. 

As a response, the EPA announced it will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the CAFO program that includes issues raised in these petitions. The 2022 petition was filed by numerous state-level clean water advocacy groups as well as the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of the Earth, Earthjustice, and more, and asked the EPA to adopt a presumption that large CAFOs using wet manure management systems discharge pollutants.

“NCBA appreciates the EPA recognizing that America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to ensuring clean water and investing in a sustainable future,” said the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart. “By rejecting these two petitions that sought to directly attack animal agriculture, the EPA is protecting cattle producers from frivolous distractions and allowing them to return to the important job of stewarding our natural resources and feeding the nation.”

The evaluation conducted by the EPA will include a detailed study of the CAFO effluent limitation guidelines as well as establishing a Federal Advisory Committee subcommittee under the existing Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC) through which a diverse array of stakeholders will help to inform EPA’s efforts to improve its CAFO program. The EPA believes that a comprehensive evaluation is essential before determining whether any regulatory revisions are necessary or appropriate. 

The EPA advisory panel will have several meetings over the next year and a half. After the EPA gets the advisory committee’s recommendations and completes its own study, the EPA will decide whether new rules are needed or whether better implementation and enforcement of existing ones would be more effective. 

“America’s farmers are committed to growing safe and affordable food while protecting the resources they’re entrusted with. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) appreciates EPA for recognizing those efforts by rejecting attempts to unfairly target farmers who take care of herds and ultimately help meet America’s nutritional needs,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “As EPA moves forward with plans to study the issue further, we urge the agency to carefully consider the benefits animal feeding operations provide in America’s sustainability efforts.”