Cattle producers take pride in serving as good stewards of our nation’s natural resources while producing a safe, affordable and abundant food supply to feed a growing global population. NCBA members believe environmental regulations must be based on sound science and common sense to benefit the environment and keep cattle producers on the land.
• On July 31 EPA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule entitled “NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule” (the rule). The rule requires National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit holders to report all NPDES reports electronically to the agency directly or to the state NPDES-approved program. It requires permittees and regulators to use existing, available information technology to electronically report information and data related to the NPDES permit program in lieu of filing written reports.
• The types of NPDES information that EPA proposes to require the NPDES-authorized states, tribes and territories to report would include: Facility and permit information on individually-issued NPDES permits; Information associated with general permits; information regarding compliance monitoring and inspection activities; compliance determination information; enforcement action information; other NPDES information required to be submitted electronically from permittees but routed to the state agency; and other NPDES information covered by this proposed rule buy submitted by the permittee to the state, tribe or territory in paper form under an approved temporary waiver. While the rule allows states to use e-reporting programs that might currently be in place (or potentially 3rd party tools), the information will have to meet EPA’s standards/criteria when sent to the it (EPA).
• The rule places a special emphasis on concentrated animal feeding operations’ (CAFOs) contribution to water quality impairments and identifies electronic reporting as way to increase targeted inspections, compliance, and enforcement of cattle operations.
• The effect that this emphasis could have on cattle operations includes an increased opportunity for citizen suits, increased inspections, increased enforcement orders, and increased cost for operations. It could also lead to direct reporting to EPA instead of state agencies due to increased oversight of state programs and potentially states losing their delegated authority (as EPA has threatened in a few states). Additionally, increasing the amount of facility-specific information EPA receives and distributes online increases the likelihood of bio-terrorism threats to our food supply and our ranching families.
• There is a one-year waiver process proposed for livestock operations who lack high-speed internet.
• The comment period closes Oct. 28, 2013. The proposal can be viewed here along with instructions for submitting comments on the proposal. NCBA will file comments on behalf of the industry, but encourages all members to send in their own comments or concerns.
EPA & Corps’ Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Guidance
On May 2, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued a joint “Guidance Regarding Identification of Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act,” which substantively attempts to expand the jurisdiction of the federal government to all waters across the United States, subjecting landowners to costly and time consuming permits, and railroading states’ rights under the law. The 39-page guidance was prepared for agency field staff to use in identifying “waters of the United States” subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) regulation.
The guidance applies to all CWA programs and specifically lists sections 404 (wetlands), 402 (NPDES), 311 (oil spills and SPCC plans), 401 (state water quality certifications) and 303 (water quality standards and TMDLs).
The Guidance was submitted by the agencies to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in February 2012 but has not been finalized.
NCBA opposes any such expansion of jurisdiction under the CWA because it is an illegal attempt to get around congressional intent and will have a detrimental impact on cattle producers. NCBA is working with the Administration as well as Congress to prevent this guidance from being finalized.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
EPA Releases 80,000 Livestock Producers’ Personal Information to Environmentalists
In February 2013, EPA sent three environmental activist groups a compact disk containing the personal information of over 80,000 livestock and poultry owners from across the nation pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the groups.
The information distributed varied by state, but generally included names, personal addresses, emails, telephone numbers, GPS coordinates and operation-specific information. The information was initially sent out without any review or redactions under FOIA Exemption 6, a provision in the law that mandates federal agencies protect citizens’ personal information.
Since February 2013, EPA has admitted the agency should have reviewed and redacted some information and has sent out two subsequent compact disks containing redacted versions of the data to the three environmentalist groups.
NCBA was successful at getting language included in the House-passed Farm Bill that would prevent EPA from disseminating personal information of livestock producers to third parties.
EPA’s Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule for Farms
In December 2008, the Bush Administration released its final SPCC rule. It requires farms, except in certain circumstances, to have Facility Response Plan certified by professional engineer that details equipment, workforce, procedures, and training to prevent, control and provide adequate counter measures in the event of an oil discharge.
The rule took effect in May 2013. An appropriations bill however delays enforcement on the rule until Oct. 2013.
NCBA was successful getting language included in the Senate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that raises the exemption level for on farm fuel storage. The House, as part of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, passed stronger language that raises the level of the on-farm fuel storage exemption level as well as the self-certification level. Both provisions exempt tanks holding livestock feed from inclusion in the calculation for “aggregate above-ground fuel storage.”
Members-Only: Find Out More About Whether Your Farm or Ranch May Need a SPCC Plan.