Environmentalists Use Hurricane Florence As An Excuse To Go After ‘Factory Farms’

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

A coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration Friday in an effort to force “factory farms” to report air emissions from animals to federal and local officials.

The coalition, made up by 10 organizations, filed the complaint after Hurricane Florence flooded large portions of North Carolina and South Carolina. (RELATED: North Carolina Pump Hog Lagoons And Pray For ‘Mercy’ Ahead Of Hurricane Florence)

“The full extent of the damage to our communities is still unknown. But one thing’s clear: we need better protections for communities neighboring these operations,” Devon Hall, executive director of North Carolina’s Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, said in a statement. “Eliminating this exemption is a simple way to help make sure my neighbors and I are better protected, not just when a hurricane hits but from the day-in and day-out pollution we face.”

Farms that do not report animal and waste emissions above a certain level are violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Together, the laws require farmers to notify local and federal officials in the event their livestock and waste ponds produce excessive air pollution, the lawsuit claims.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted industrial farms in 2008 from reporting excessive emissions because “in most cases, a federal response is impractical and unlikely.” The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA’s decision nine years later, according to the court ruling.

Congress passed reforms to the law earlier this year on March 23. The EPA followed on July 23, scrapping the regulations that required industrial farms to report air emissions from animals and waste storages.

Florence’s severe flooding killed millions of livestock unable to be evacuated and broke dozens of animal waste storage ponds. The regulations covered in the environmentalist lawsuit, though, would have little impact on the destruction wrought by the hurricane. The regulations cover air emissions only, and the hurricane caused environmental crisis’ through punching holes in storage walls where sludge from waste ponds leaked out into the environment.

“Routine emissions from hog manure do not constitute a ‘hazardous’ emergency that requires the Coast Guard to activate a national cleanup response,” National Pork Producers Council President Ken Maschhoff said in a February statement. “Frankly, the court created a problem where none existed.”

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