Factory farms are a major source of pollution in the Midwest, and regularly violate air quality laws and regulations.  The Bush EPA’s solution? Exempt them from Clean Air Act standards.

Look! No more violations!

Here’s a press release from the Environmental Integrity Project:

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In the wake of the EPA release of its CAFO Air Quality Compliance Agreement today, Michele M. Merkel, senior counsel of the Environmental Integrity Project issued the following statement today:

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“These EPA rules amount to a wholesale relaxation of the Clean Air Act as it relates to factory farms, which are a major source of pollution in rural America.

All along, EPA has had the authority under the Clean Air Act to gather the kind of data it needs to determine emission levels at these industrial farming operations – it does not need the industry’s permission.  

The EPA-proposed amnesty on imposing the Clean Air act protections for the public can last until 2011.  Given that EPA already has had a moratorium on enforcement for the past four years, that means the current Administration will stall permits and air pollution controls at some facilities for more than a decade.  

Why is the EPA doing this?  The industry’s lobbyists who are operating hand in glove with the Agency understand they can’t defeat emission controls outright, especially where the public’s health is at stake, but they understand that regulations deferred are money earned, so their strategy is to postpone the day of reckoning.  

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This is another example of what should be a scientific process conducted in the public’s best interest being hijacked by industry.  Industry gets to select the “independent monitoring contractor” who will select the farms for testing and related steps.  The scientific soundness of the monitoring program can only be ensured if the monitoring protocol is reviewed by qualified independent experts who do not have ties to the livestock industry. Furthermore, we are also concerned that the small number of farms EPA anticipates including in the data collection process (28) will not provide a significant enough sample to be representative.

What EPA is proposing is a sell-out of the public in order to profit the industry.  In practice, this agreement will end up being even worse than it looks now.  Industry will use this agreement to try and block citizen suits.  The idea of preventing citizens from exercising their rights to hold polluters accountable under federal law for the next six years (or more) is troubling.  Additionally, the agreement allows companies that have been sued by citizens to sign up for the amnesty.”