Nov. 5, 2013 by Anne Havemann

Alt v. EPA: EPA's control over CAFOs shrinks again

Lois Alt is a 61-year-old grandmother who sued EPA in federal court arguing that her large chicken farming operation is exempt from Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting requirements. On October 23, the judge ruled in her favor in an alarming decision that could mean thousands of other large industrial farming operations do not need permits. 

The case began when EPA found Ms. Alt in violation of the CWA for discharging without a permit. EPA ordered her to apply for one and informed her that, under the law, she could be subject to civil or criminal penalties. The agency later withdrew the notice, essentially mooting the case. Nevertheless, Judge Bailey felt compelled to rule on the merits.

The facts are not disputed. Ventilation fans blow litter and manure out of Ms. Alt’s eight chicken houses. Rainwater washes this pollution from the yard surrounding the chicken houses into Mudlick Run, a nearby stream, by means of “man-made ditches” (opinion, p.5). Normally, a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) like Ms. Alt’s must get a permit to discharge into surface waters. Congress added a provision to the CWA in 1987 excusing agricultural stormwater discharges from permitting requirements. EPA has construed this …

Sept. 17, 2013 by Anne Havemann

In a much-anticipated opinion, a district court judge on Friday upheld the Bay TMDL, or pollution diet, against a challenge brought by the American Farm Bureau. The decision affirms that EPA’s Chesapeake Bay efforts have been squarely within its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), not to mention the various consent decrees, memoranda of understanding (MOU), and a presidential executive order.

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a cap on the total amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that can enter the Bay from the District of Columbia and the six Bay Watershed states: Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The plan is the largest and most complex of all such pollutant limits to date, and jurisdictions across the country are paying close attention to it because they consider it a possible model for efforts to clean up their …

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