From today’s Progress Report:
SOMETHING STINKS AT THE EPA: America’s farms produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure per year — three times the amount of waste that humans in this country produce. These masses don’t just stink, they are also "laden with harmful bacteria and chemicals" and pollute the nation’s water and air. According to a 1998 report from the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), muck from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) "has fouled roughly 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states. More recent data show that 29 states have reported water contamination from these feedlots." The EPA designed a new rule that purports to fix this problem, by revamping the federal permitting process required under the Clean Water Act. But in reality, the rule would "leave up to farmers to define what constitutes pollution," allowing them to determine whether they need to apply for a federal permit. "The loophole basically renders the Clean Water Act meaningless when it comes to regulating the fecal discharge from CAFOs," said Michele Merkel, a former staff attorney in the EPA’s enforcement division. "It says to these massive facilities, ‘Hey, figure out if you need a permit to pollute, and then come and get one.’ It’s appalling." Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Larry Craig (R-ID) have now joined the EPA and are planning to introduce legislation stating that manure should not be classified as a hazardous substance. Much of the pressure on Congress to exempt manure has come from the Farmers for Clean Air and Water — consisting of the American Farm Bureau, Tyson Foods and other livestock, poultry, and dairy companies — which has hired the Livingston Group to lobby lawmakers.