HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Backing off on Pollution from Animal Feed Lots

In June, the DC Court of Appeals upheld the  Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. from cars and power plants), declaring in its opinion that the EPA was “unambiguously correct” that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to impose limits once it has determined that emissions are causing harm. The EPA is clearly committed to going forward on health threats in the air.

However, the Administration seems less committed on water pollution threats. As Pew Charitable Trusts accurately reported, the EPA has just abandoned its proposed rule that would collect information about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These lots often confine thousands of animals and generate massive quantities of waste, often containing heavy metals, hormones, antibiotic residues, and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Many US drinking water sources are at risk from these discharges, but there is not much information collected about them.

On July 31, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and two other groups filed a lawsuit alleging a hog farm in North Carolina is illegally discharging animal waste into creeks, rivers, ditches and lands surrounding the facility. The groups measured unacceptably high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal coliform in the waters. Examples like this abound, and illustrate the need for collecting this discharge information.


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