EPA Grants Livestock Farms Amnesty From Clean Air Act

On January 21st, Environmental Defense strongly criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for developing a closed-door deal that gives the livestock industry amnesty from violating Clean Air Act (CAA) emission standards. The plan gives polluters a waiver from violations in exchange for small payments into a fund to develop methods to estimate air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs). Under the plan, which was drafted over the last two years without public involvement, any AFO that signs up for the voluntary program would receive a waiver from CAA enforcement, even though emissions from only a small number of AFOs would actually be monitored.

"EPA's give-away to the livestock industry is troubling to those downwind of factory farms and sends the wrong message to other polluting industries," said Joe Rudek, senior scientist with Environmental Defense and a member of the USDA Agricultural Air Quality Task Force. "EPA's plan grants the livestock industry blanket amnesty from Clean Air Act regulations. It is a sweetheart deal that turned its back on the scientific and environmental communities, as well as the public. All agreements involving the livestock industry and EPA should be negotiated in the open and with full public participation."

"EPA clearly has the authority to require monitoring of air emissions and relinquishes far too much of its control in this voluntary program. Industry should pay to monitor its pollution, and it should also be required to collect data that document the full impact of emissions on air quality, rather than making the limited measurements called for in EPA's plan," said Rudek.

EPA's plan blatantly disregards the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, which determined that monitoring emissions on representative farms should not be used to estimate pollution created by the entire industry. Equally important, EPA's plan does not protect the monitoring program from industry influence and does not require external review by independent experts.

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