Withdrawal of CAFO Reporting Rule
Key Development: EPA will withdraw proposed rule that would have
required all concentrated animal feeding operations, regardless of whether they
discharge into water, to report information about their operations.
What's Next: EPA will work with the Association of Clean Water
Administrators to collect information on CAFOs from existing state, local
By Anthony Adragna
The Environmental Protection Agency will withdraw a proposed rule, widely
opposed by livestock and other industry groups, that would have required all
concentrated animal feeding operations to report information about their
operations, regardless of whether they discharge into water.
In a notice that will soon be published in the Federal Register, the
agency said it would collect basic information on CAFOs through existing sources
at the state and local level. EPA said it had established a memorandum of
understanding with the Association of Clean Water Administrators, which will
assist the agency in collecting information.
EPA posted the notice on its website July 13. The agency said that working
with states was an efficient approach that would “not duplicate efforts” from
existing programs. The agency reserved the right to initiate a similar
rulemaking at a future date.
First proposed in November 2011 as part of a settlement with the Natural
Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Sierra Club, the
rule would have required all CAFOs to report data on the size of their
facilities and basic operational characteristics. The proposed rule also offered
the option of only requiring information from CAFOs in watersheds with poor
water quality compliance problems (NRDC v. EPA, 5th Cir., No. 08-61093,
settlement reached 6/16/2010).
Another option in the proposed rule would have used already available
information from CAFOs with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
The settlement resolved a lawsuit filed by environmental groups opposing a
2008 CAFO rule that excluded certain facilities from reporting requirements.
Comments on the proposed rule were due in January. State farm bureaus and
livestock, poultry, and dairy groups all said EPA could not require information
from CAFOs that do not discharge under Section 308 of the Clean Water Act (15
DER A-29, 1/25/12).
EPA said it continued to consider CAFOs an important part of water quality
planning, but that it could obtain all the necessary information through
“Some states commented that they have the information proposed to be
collected by the rule and expressed interest in working with the EPA to exchange
that information,” the agency says in the forthcoming Federal Register
notice. “Continued implementation of the permitting process for CAFOs will
likely result in improvements in data tracking and availability and analysis of
An EPA spokeswoman directed questions to the proposed Federal Register
Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for the American Farm
Bureau Federation, said EPA made the right decision by withdrawing the rule.
“We think this approach is a good way to streamline the process and get EPA
the information it needs,” he told BNA in a July 16 interview.
Livestock organizations also applauded the decision to pull the rule.
“The proposed rule was the result of a sweetheart settlement between EPA and
environmentalists that would have provided no public health protections,”
National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt said in a statement. “It
would have been a duplicative and burdensome paperwork exercise for
J.D. Alexander, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said
the decision showed how important it was for producers to get involved in the
“We encourage the agency to redirect its focus to working with states and
other partners to attain already publicly available information that would allow
them to work toward their goal of improved water quality,” he said in a July 13
statement. “This can be done in a way that does not put our food system at
Jon Devine, senior attorney for NRDC, said his organization was disappointed
but not surprised by EPA's decision.
“Nothing in EPA's notice gives us any confidence that they'll be able to
compile a usable database,” he told BNA. “The entire endeavor appears to be done
on little more than shared hope.”
Devine said NRDC would work with other environmental groups to get EPA the
relevant information as quickly as possible, but he described the approach as
“doomed to fail.”