Monday, July 23, 2012

Proposed CAFO Reporting Rule Withdrawn

EPA announced that it is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have required information to be submitted to the Agency about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The 2011 proposal was in part a response to a settlement agreement with environmental petitioners in 2010, which required EPA to take final action by July 13, 2012. This final action does not require CAFOs or states to submit information to EPA and EPA's withdrawal of the proposal does not change the number of CAFOs that need permits under NPDES.

The Agency said that although it believes collecting CAFO information is important, an efficient approach that does not duplicate efforts is the appropriate next step. EPA will continue to collect information using existing sources such as state National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) programs and other federal, state, and local programs. This data will help ensure CAFOs are implementing practices that protect water quality.

The October 2011 proposed rule contained several options for gathering information about CAFOs to improve and restore water quality, as well as an option to improve water quality by promoting environmental stewardship and compliance rather than information collection activities. EPA had proposed to collect the following:
  • Contact information for the CAFO owner or representative;
  • Location of the CAFO production area;
  • Whether the CAFO applied for and received coverage under a NPDES permit;
  • Identification of each animal type and maximum number of animals confined on the CAFO; and
  • At CAFOs that land apply, the number of acres available for land application.

EPA decided not to require self-reporting from CAFOs in part because many CAFOs have provided their information to some governmental entity, although not necessarily to EPA. While EPA may not be the entity that initially received the CAFO information, the Agency said it is reasonable at this time for it to work with states and other federal partners to obtain key information rather than asking CAFOs to re-submit to the EPA information they submitted to another governmental entity. Collecting existing information, evaluating it, and compiling it in one format will better inform the Agency of what additional information needs to be collected and the best way to collect that information in the future, if it is necessary.

Recently EPA established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Association of the Clean Water Administrations (ACWA) to specifically assist the Agency in obtaining information about CAFOs. ACWA is an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit corporation of state and interstate water program managers. This collaborative effort between EPA and ACWA will focus on identifying CAFOs and assisting EPA in obtaining pertinent information about CAFOs on a state-by-state basis.

EPA indicated that it will re-evaluate whether a rule is needed to collect information about CAFOs after seeking to obtain the information from existing sources. If it determines that it is necessary to fill in information gaps, it may use existing tools, such as site visits or individual information collection requests, to collect information — or it may reconsider whether to propose a rule that obtains information from all CAFO facilities.

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