Changes in discharge permitting may help CAFO owners
For many CAFO owners, securing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is expensive, inconvenient, and confusing. Owners of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) face complicated permitting systems that are inconsistent between states. But, according to a paper published in August by the Journal of Animal Science, giving permitting authority from environmental agencies to state agricultural departments could make the permitting process simpler.
In their paper, University of Georgia researchers T.J. Centner and G.L. Newton, explain why restructuring the discharge-permitting process is important. Though the federal government regulates discharge in order to follow the Clean Water Act, many states have taken over regulation and instituted even stricter discharge guidelines.
“This means that federal and state regulations governing proposed discharges and land application discharges may be different,” write the paper’s authors. “This is confusing for national groups that seek to summarize the CAFO Rule across states and for CAFO owners with operation in more than one state.”
The paper’s authorsalso explain an incident where many CAFO owners believed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped. Under a 2003 CAFO Rule, the EPA began requiring permits for any CAFO with the “potential for discharge.” CAFO owners disagreed with this requirement, a group of petitioners successfully argued in court that the “EPA lacked authority to require CAFOs to secure a permit in the absence of actual discharges.”
Drs. Centner and Newton write that it may help to grant agricultural departments, rather
than environmental agencies at the state level, permitting authority. The agricultural agencies would still follow the Clean Water Act, but some farmers feel that agricultural agencies could better understand and handle the needs of CAFOs.
“Depending on a state’s regulatory objectives, changes in permitting oversight might alleviate some of the burdens that currently accompany NPDES permitting requirements,” write Centner and Newton.
This paper is titled “Reducing CAFO permitting requirements.” It can be read in full at http://journalofanimalscience.org/
Scientific Communications Associate