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Coalition Sues Environmental Protection Agency for Abandoning Critical Factory Farm Rule : the Humane Society of the United States

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Factory Farming and Food Safety page.

A coalition of community, animal welfare and environmental organizations is filing a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency challenging the Agency's withdrawal of a proposed rule that would have allowed EPA to collect basic information, like locations and animal population sizes, from factory farms.  

The Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed the suit in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the Agency's withdrawal of the proposed rule lacks the rational basis required by law. The information at issue is critical to the EPA's ability to protect waterways from pollutants produced by factory farms, one of the country's largest sources of water pollution.

Hugh Espey, executive director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement said: "While power plants, waste treatment facilities and manufacturers have had to comply with the protective standards of the Clean Water Act, the factory farming industry has managed to evade any meaningful regulation. After over three decades, there is no rational reason for why EPA won't enact the types of Clean Water Act approaches with factory farms that have worked well with all of our other polluting industries."

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS said: "The animal agriculture industry has benefited from EPA's lack of information for decades, and has successfully opposed efforts to increase transparency. This certainly is not good for animals, humans or the environment; it is only good for massive industrialized farms."

George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, stated: "With the withdrawal, EPA continues to pursue a CAFO pollution control policy that can only be described as willful ignorance. As long as EPA continues to turn an unlawfully blind eye towards this industry, our waterways and communities will never be safe."

Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with Environmental Integrity Project stated: "Our ask is modest; we are urging EPA to fulfill its mission and start to get a better understanding about one of the largest sources of pollution threatening our nation's rivers, streams and bays. It's a sad commentary on the agency when we have to go to court to get that accomplished."

Factory farms are industrial facilities that confine thousands of animals in limited land areas for meat, dairy and egg production. The operations that would have been subject to this rule are the factory farms falling within the "CAFO" point source category under the Clean Water Act, a category that consists of the Nation's largest and dirtiest operations. 

EPA estimates there are 20,000 CAFOs in the United States producing three times as much waste as humans. Although this waste contains pathogens, heavy metals, antibiotics and hormones, EPA does not require all factory farms to meet waste management and treatment requirements.   


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