Organic Consumers Association

Factory Farms Want Exemption from Air Pollution Laws

From Sierra Club 9/24/03

Bush Administration Nearing Deal to Weaken Protections for Communities Near Factory Farms

WASHINGTON - September 24 - Newly obtained documents from the Environmental Protection Agency reveal that the Bush Administration is formalizing a back-room deal with the livestock and poultry industries that would let giant factory farm polluters off the hook for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Superfund hazardous waste law that have protected communities for decades. With this new incriminating evidence in hand, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment filed a lawsuit today under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding that the Bush Administration divulge information about its closed negotiations with the meat industry.

"Be it Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force or this back-room deal for the meat and milk industries,the Bush Administration continues to let polluters write the rules while leaving the public out of the process," said Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club.

In May, environmental groups obtained an industry letter documenting clandestine negotiations with the Bush Administration to shield giant factory farms from the requirements of the Clean Air Act and Superfund hazardous-waste laws. Since then, the Bush Administration has been working on a deal that would allow factory farms to continue polluting without any threat of prosecution.

The Bush Administration has rebuffed environmental groups' requests for information about the closed-door meetings, claiming that it has "not entered into any 'safe harbor' agreement." However, environmental groups recently obtained a copy of the supposedly non-existent agreement. According to that draft, the Administration would allow the meat and milk industries to ignore clean air and hazardous waste laws indefinitely, asking only that industry "monitor" its emissions.

The Bush Administration has persistently refused to address pollution from factory farms, which concentrate thousands of animals in a single location and release enormous quantities of harmful pollutants. And Utah Mike Leavitt, nominated by President Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has a history of favoring polluting agricultural interests; as governor of Utah, Mr. Leavitt helped to pass a law preventing citizens from bringing state suits against agricultural businesses.

"Exempting animal factories from basic environmental laws like the Clean Air Act would put thousands of communities at risk," said Brent Newell of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. "Instead of protecting those communities, the Bush Administration is working to protect polluters from the laws that safeguard the public welfare."

A copy of the draft agreement, the meat industry's memo proposing the amnesty agreement, the environmental groups request for enforcement actions, as well as other relevant documents can be found here.

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