By Amena H. Saiyid
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation reached an agreement late April 29 to give the agency an additional 30 days to propose a rule that would potentially expand the universe of regulated concentrated animal feeding operations.
“EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have agreed to extend the deadline for a proposed CAFO rule for 30 days from April 30, 2013,” the agency told BNA said in a statement.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation spokesman John Surrick also confirmed that the deadline had been postponed.
EPA was under a May 2010 court-approved settlement agreement with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to propose revisions by June 30, 2012 to the existing rules for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The agency had renegotiated the deadline to April 30, 2013 (Fowler v. EPA, D.D.C., No. 1:09-cv-5, 5/11/10; 192 DER A-39, 10/4/12).
The Chesapeake Bay group filed the lawsuit to force EPA action, but the rule would apply to CAFOs nationwide.
The settlement required EPA to regulate more CAFOs because they are sources of phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment discharges that are adversely affecting water quality. Excessive nutrient pollution, which collectively refers to nitrogen and phosphorus, can cause oxygen-depleted “dead zones.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the proposed revisions would enable EPA to expand the universe of regulated CAFOs under the Clean Water Act by making it easier to designate animal feeding operations as CAFOs, which would increase the number of animal feeding operations that would qualify.
Regulated CAFOs must obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits to control discharges of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff under regulations at 40 C.F.R. Part 122.
The agency also was required under this 2010 settlement to propose more stringent Clean Water Act permitting requirements for land application of manure, litter, and wastewater.
As of April 29, EPA had not sent a proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for intergency review. The OMB review is usually the last step before a federal agency releases a policy, guidance, or rule to the public. OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs normally completes regulatory reviews within 90 days.
Environmental and agriculture groups had told BNA they did not expect EPA to meet the April 30 deadline.
Don Parrish, senior regulatory affairs director for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told BNA prior to the announcement that he had not heard of any new developments regarding the proposed rule.
Tarah Heinzen, attorney for the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, had also voiced her doubts about EPA meeting the deadline.
Heinzen told BNA April 29 that the Environmental Integrity Project had coordinated a meeting between the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and EPA on April 22 to emphasize the need for a revised CAFO rule. At that meeting, she said, the groups also tried to ascertain the status of EPA's CAFO rulemaking, but EPA gave no indication about the substance of the rule or whether it would issue the proposed rule by April 30.
More information on EPA regulation of CAFOs is available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/cafofinalrule.cfm.