The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed comments Aug. 30 on the federal Clean Water Act proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
“EPA has proposed a reasonable final CAFO rule, which will provide an effective regulatory program that addresses clean water issues while keeping regulatory costs for producers low,” says Randy Spronk, chairman of NPPC’s Environment Committee and a hog producer from Minnesota. “The pork industry always has sought sensible regulations that are achievable, affordable and sustainable. We believe EPA has met those criteria.”
The proposed regulation is a revision of a 2003 rule that required CAFOs over a certain size to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and to develop and implement nutrient management plans (NMPs).
NPPC and other livestock groups challenged that rule in federal court, arguing that the Clean Water Act requires NPDES permits only for producers who discharge. The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed and ordered EPA to revise the rule.
Under the revised rule, only CAFOs that discharge must obtain NPDES permits and submit NMPs.
“The research reported in our comments shows that less than 1% of swine CAFOs discharge in any year,” says Spronk, “so EPA’s decision to not require permits of CAFOs that do not discharge is justified.”
In its comments, the NPPC did express some serious concerns about the proposed EPA rule:
- Possible major delays in CAFOs obtaining NPDES permits or getting approval for changes to NMPs because of lengthy EPA reviews and public participation requirements.
- Concern that the July 31, 2007 permit deadline for covered CAFOs provides too little time for states to amend their permit regulations. NPPC asked EPA to give states a year to amend their programs to the final CAFO rule and one additional year for CAFOs to submit permit applications and NMPs.