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Advocates: EPA Manure Ruling a “Flaming Bag of Poop”

December 3, 2008

St. Louis, MO - An environmental advocate says a "flaming bag of poop" has been thrown on the state Capitol steps, with finalization by the Environmental Protection Agency of a rule meant to protect water quality by requiring concentrated animal feeding operations or "CAFOs" to safely manage manure.

In response to a court decision, the EPA has changed its rules that govern factory farms, so that CAFOs are no longer required to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act unless they discharge pollutants, and CAFOs may now participate in a voluntary certification program outside of the Clean Water Act.

Kathleen Logan Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment says the new ruling leaves a lot of gray area for everyone involved. She says that, for those CAFOs that do obtain permits, there will be more provisions that protect water quality. While these requirements are good in theory, she adds, the ruling has many loopholes, and many CAFOs won't even have to get permits.

"It's almost like having the best rules in the world and only applying them to three-armed polka-dotted aliens. They're not going to apply to anybody, so no matter how good the rules are, hardly anybody is going to be required to have a permit."

Logan Smith says the move is a step forward in protecting water quality, but it lacks teeth because it relies for the most part on self-enforcement of the rules.

"It's all going to be about, 'Can we trust you, can we trust you to do the right thing?'- and agriculture hasn't been all that great about policing their own."

Logan Smith it will be a mess for the state to figure out how to administer the ruling, which came in response to the Waterkeeper decision issued by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in February of 2005. It takes effect December 22nd.

Missouri has more than 500 large CAFOs. The EPA says the ruling will prevent millions of pounds of phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the country's waters.

For more information on the ruling, go to cfpub.epa.gov

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO