EPA announces farm-waste rules - Whitman praises regulations; critics call them load of manure

Washington Post
via The Spokesman-Review


WASHINGTON _ The Bush administration announced final rules for regulating livestock waste runoff from major factory-style farms that officials say will prevent billions of pounds of health-threatening pollutants from annually entering lakes and streams.

The new Environmental Protection Agency rules, issued Monday to meet a court-imposed deadline, will require all major concentrated feeding operations to obtain government permits to more strictly regulate water contamination by animal manure and waste.

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman hailed the rules as a "historic step forward in our efforts to make America's waters cleaner and purer," but without harming the agriculture industry.

Officials say the rule targets the 15,500 livestock operations across the country responsible for about 60 percent of the waste runoff. But critics say the regulation originally drafted during the Clinton administration has been weakened, reducing by more than half the number of companies that must submit to regulations; giving livestock producers substantial authority to draft their own anti-pollution management plans; and relieving major corporations of financial liability for illegal spills by their growers or subcontractors.

The critics also said the new rule was deficient because it doesn't require industry to adopt modern technology for combating pollution and because it doesn't require the monitoring of groundwater.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, called the rule "a muddled result, without a clear path to a cleaner environment," adding: "Unfortunately, the EPA ducked its responsibility to hold large agribusiness firms responsible for environmental damage from manure."

"The final rule puts polluters first," said Melanie Shepherdson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC's suit against the EPA prompted the court-ordered deadline for the rules. "The Bush EPA gave agribusiness increased protection from liability for polluting our waterways. It's a sweet deal for factory farm polluters, but it stinks for the rest of us."


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