Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Groups sue about manure rules change

By Amy Lorentzen
The Associated Press

Environmental groups and industry groups are suing the Bush administration over new federal rules intended to protect the nation's waters from the manure pollution of large-scale farms.

The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Waterkeeper Alliance announced Monday that they filed their lawsuit last week in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It challenges the Environmental Protection Agency to review its regulations for confined animal feeding operations.

The groups are concerned that the new rules will weaken protections in the Clean Water Act and endanger public health.

"The Bush administration's rule doesn't make polluting factory farms clean up the waste that their animals produce," said Barclay Rogers, a Sierra Club attorney. "That contradicts our belief in cleaning up the messes you make, and violates the protections that are responsible for keeping our rivers and lakes clean."

Four livestock industry groups said Tuesday they have also filed lawsuits.

Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said the EPA exceeded its authority in setting rules that reach beyond the discharge of pollutants. The rules also cover manure storage and the application of manure to farm fields as fertilizer.

The chicken council filed its lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Other suits were filed by the Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation.

The EPA rules require large confinements - defined as having at least 1,000 beef cattle and 2,500 swine - to obtain water-pollution permits every five years. Some medium ones - with 300 beef cattle and 3,000 swine under 55 pounds - may be required to get one. Different head-count thresholds are set for livestock operations including sheep, chicken and turkeys.

Any farm required to have a permit also must have a plan spelling out how the farm will manage manure.

The agency plans to phase in the rules, approved in February, between now and 2006.

Forty-five states will manage the program themselves while activities in the other five states - Alaska, Idaho, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Mexico and the District of Columbia - will be managed by the EPA.

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