Court rules against green groups, lets factory farms off the hook

Some 2,600 livestock companies are participating in a sweet deal from the U.S. EPA. In exchange for paying a minimal fee and agreeing to participate in an air-quality data-collection program, factory farms can basically be exempt from Clean Air Act requirements for 30 months. When the swap was announced in early 2005, environmentalists cried foul; green groups sued the EPA, claiming that the agency failed to follow rulemaking procedures. But this week, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the EPA, in effect allowing factory farms participating in the program to pollute and stink as much as they like without fear of litigation. “The EPA decided to give them blanket amnesty in the form of, ‘You send us a check … and we’ll guarantee that no one will sue you,'” says David Bookbinder, senior attorney for the Sierra Club. Data collection began this summer; of the 14,000 farms signed on to the compliance agreement, only 24 will actually be studied. The rest are happy as pigs in … well, you know.