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Thursday, November 30, 2023

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As climate change conference opens, one CA city takes action; Israel and Hamas extend Gaza truce by one day in a last-minute deal; WV could lose hundreds of millions in Medicaid funding.

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An expulsion vote looms for Rep. George Santos, the Ohio Supreme Court dismisses lawsuits against district maps and the Supreme Court hears a case which could cut the power of federal agencies.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

EPA Criticized After Passing on New Regulations for Factory Farms

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023   

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will hold off on imposing new regulations dealing with factory farms amid concerns about their link to water pollution. The decision has frustrated environmental advocates in Minnesota and elsewhere. The agency was responding to a 6 year old petition filed by dozens of groups wanting tougher enforcement of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, under the Clean Water Act. The EPA will instead form a committee to explore the matter, a process that could take almost two years.

Matthew Sheets, an organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, called it disappointing to see the status quo being maintained, pointing to pollution examples in Minnesota.

"One of the things - where we've seen a lot of the effects of all sorts of pollution from factory farms is in southeast Minnesota, [in what's] called the Driftless region, and in that area, there have been notices for nitrate pollution in the water," he said.

He added when those nitrates get into drinking water, they enhance the risk for conditions such as "blue baby syndrome." According to a 2020 summary from the Environmental Working Group, Minnesota has seen a three-fold increase in the number of CAFOs in the past three decades. Livestock groups praised the decision, arguing current regulations are effective and that producers are adopting climate-smart practices.

Sheets countered consolidation within agriculture has eroded the presence of family farms and said large-scale livestock operators can have a big influence over local decisions concerning regulations. Without new federal standards, opponents at the grassroots level feel like they are left alone on this issue, he said.

"If people on the ground who had to deal with the water pollution and the economic fallout from the consolidation that's happening had an ally in the EPA, that would have, I think, made them feel they actually could have a say in what was happening," he explained.

Sheets added Minnesota does offer some protections under statewide provisions, but suggested it is not enough to overcome the web of enforcement involving other levels of government. The EPA said it shares environmental concerns over the large livestock operations and agrees many may be in violation of the Clean Water Act. However, it added that studying the issue will lead to an informed decision regarding any reforms.


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