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Federal Court Strikes Down EPA Rules

posted on March 4, 2005

In addition to the legal entanglements, there's political intrigue involved in the beef trade flap.

Officials in the Canadian cattle industry claim this week's judicial and legislative setbacks were, in effect, a payback for Canada's refusal to back the U.S. on everything from the war in Iraq to a proposed continental missile shield.

At home, there's a political school of thought that says the Canadian border MUST be re-opened before the U.S. can step up pressure on Japan to once again accept American beef into its markets. Even so, 30 members of Congress this week signed a resolution seeking sanctions against Japan if it does NOT lift its ban on U.S. beef imports.

Another aspect of livestock production also had its day in court this week. A federal appeals court in New York ruled that new clean water regulations established by the Bush administration are NOT protecting America's waterways from pollution caused by large farms.

The ruling strikes down much of a 2003 Environmental Protection Agency plan to regulate livestock operations.

Federal Court Strikes Down EPA Rules The rules require large confinements -- those with at least 1,000 beef cattle or 2,500 hogs -- to obtain water pollution permits every five years. Some smaller operations and those with different livestock faced similar requirements. Any operation required to have a permit also is required to implement plans detailing how manure and other wastes are managed.

The appeals court said the rules imposed by the EPA in 2003 were arbitrary and capricious and did "nothing to ensure" compliance. The ruling requires the EPA to develop a process that "adequately involves the public" as it redefines waste management guidelines.

The appellate court decision, however, also said EPA could not require permits of farms that have closed storage systems that do not release manure directly to lakes or streams. Since most state laws ban such discharges, thousands of operations could be exempted from the permit process. 45 states manage the EPA program themselves, while operations in Alaska, Idaho, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and new Mexico are managed by EPA.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "It is an outlaw industry..."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots organization of water protection programs said he was grateful the court had rebuked "the government and the barons of corporate agriculture."

The Waterkeeper Alliance was one of several groups which filed lawsuits challenging various aspects of the Bush administration rules. Other groups included the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and other livestock groups.

Tags: agriculture animals beef cattle Environmental Protection Agency livestock meat news pigs pollution