In February of 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised requirements which changed the federal regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These changes were challenged by several different groups. The case eventually made its way to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The case, Waterkeeper Alliance et al. v. EPA resulted in a ruling in which both environmentalists and farmers got something they wanted. (1)
The EPA's rule change had required all CAFOs to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. These permits are required under the Clean Water Act in order to regulate water pollution. Any actual or expected discharge of water pollution must be approved by a NPDES permit. The EPA's rule change had required all CAFOs to apply for a permit, regardless of whether the CAFO expected to discharge contaminated water. The Waterkeeper decision forced the change of this requirement because the Court ruled that the Clean Water Act only regulated actual pollution, not potential pollution. The new rule only requires NPDES permits for CAFOs that discharge or expect to discharge contaminated water. (1)
Under the 2003 rule CAFOs were required to develop and implement Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs). NMPs are plans developed by CAFOs which describe how the operation will be conducted, how animal waste will be dealt with, and how wastewater will be dealt with, among other things. (2) The rule change under the Waterkeeper decision requires CAFOs to submit NMPs along with their NPDES permit applications. The NMP must then be reviewed by the permitting authority and the public must be able to comment on the plan. The NMP must also be an enforceable requirement of the NPDES permit. (1)
The Waterkeeper decision can be read here in PDF format.
The new NPDES and Effluent Guidelines can be read here in PDF format.
1. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Final Rulemaking – Fact Sheet. http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/cafo_final_rule2008_fs.pdf. Accessed November 23, 2008.
2. Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan A Component of the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) http://www.maeap.org/modules.php?name=DocReader&op=showDoc&cid=58&docid=230&mt=1. Accessed November 23, 2008..