Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicken Rancher Sues EPA

  A West Virginia chicken farmer is suing the EPA to stop it from imposing wastewater rules on her farm as part of a multi-state effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay.

Lois Alt, owner of Eight is Enough farms in the Old Fields section of Hardy County in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, argues the EPA has overstepped its authority by ordering her to stop polluting streams and obtain discharge permits under the federal Clean Water Act.

Alt says any waste-tainted runoff is agricultural storm water, not “process wastewater,” and that means it’s not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. “The only water that runs off the farm is water that falls as precipitation on the roofs or on the farm yard,” her lawsuit maintains.
EPA is rather well known for stretching definitions to allow it to regulate matters that legislators did not intend for it to regulate (or at least didn't consider at the time the legislation was written).  How much did they stretch to fit this one?
Its order last fall said that dust, feathers and fine particles of dander and manure from Alt’s poultry house ventilation fans could land on the ground, come into contact with stormwater and flow into ditches, eventually reaching Chesapeake Bay tributaries. The EPA is focused on protecting the watershed, which encompasses parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and all of the District of Columbia.
Well, yes, all kinds of things could happen, but do they, and if they are do they occur in significant amounts?

And what are they threatening?
Alt could face civil penalties of up to $37,500 a day if found in violation of what she calls an arbitrary, capricious and illegal action.
That seems a little steep; they'd never try to enforce that against a family farm or a homeownder would they?

Anyway, it seems as if some legislators are getting a bit upset at the EPA.  The House of Representatives is proposing to slash EPA funding 17% in the next budget spending plan (it's incorrect to call the process used now "budgeting"):
The House GOP on Wednesday advanced a 2013 spending bill with deep cuts and limitations to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill cuts EPA by $1.4 billion, about 17 percent, compared to current funding. The GOP points out that this brings the EPA below fiscal 1998 funding.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who hails from coal country, said he is especially proud of the measure, which was advanced from subcommittee to the full spending panel on a voice vote.

“This represents the strong concerns of this Congress over the EPA’s unprecedented effort to drive certain industries to extinction with a cocktail of burdensome regulations, questionable guidance policies, and arbitrary enforcement measures — all designed to shut down the permitting process for energy exploration and production,” he said.
 I doubt it will come to that.  But we'll see, won't we?

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