NCBA files comments on Clean Water Act Section 308 proposed rule

Jan 27, 2012
by WLJ

T h e National Cattlem e n ’ s Beef Association (NCBA) filed comments Jan. 19, 2012, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 308 CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) Reporting Rule. NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said the proposed rule reaches beyond the agency’s authority and could put the nation’s food system at risk of increased terrorist attacks.

“EPA should pull this rule. The agency needs to redirect its focus on working with states and other partners to attain already publicly available information that would allow them to work towards their goal improved water quality,” said Lyon. “This can be done in a way that does not put our food system at increased risk.”

According to Lyon, despite numerous meetings where livestock groups and other government agencies raised serious biosecurity and privacy concerns, the agency still proposed the rule. The rule requires all cattle operations meeting the regulatory definition of a CAFO to report a long list of information about their operations to EPA, including latitude and longitude (or street address) of the production area, acres available for land application of manure, type and number of head and contact information of the owner or authorized representative. EPA would place this information on the agency’s website in an easily searchable database, where Lyon fears extremists can access the information with the intent to do harm to cattle operations or the nation’s food system.

“The livestock industry presented safety concerns to EPA on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, it seems that up to this point, those concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears,” said Lyon. “We hope the comments filed today will further illustrate the grave consequences this rule could have on our industry and our country.

NCBA’s comments also asserted EPA’s lack of authority to make this broad request considering a recent court decision that found EPA only has CWA authority over feeding operations that discharge.

Lyon said the “blanket request” goes beyond what the court clearly indicated was EPA’s regulatory limit. If finalized, any non-compliance with the rule is a violation of the CWA and becomes subject to fines of up to $37,500 per day.

The agency will now begin the process of reviewing comments regarding this proposed rule. Lyon expects the final rule to be released in the coming months. — WLJ