• CAFOs Likely to Be Retained as One of EPA's FY2011-13 Enforcement Priorities
  • January 19, 2010 | Authors: Colin C. Deihl; Eric J. Triplett
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - Denver Office
  • On January 4, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced 15 potential national enforcement priority areas for FY2011-2013. Several of the proposed priorities, including concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are part of the current 2008--2010 enforcement strategy.

    EPA selects enforcement priorities in three-year cycles--based on input from EPA regional offices, states, tribes and the public--to target resources "on the most important environmental problems where noncompliance is a significant contributing factor."

    Rationale for Retaining CAFOs as a Priority

    Based on its belief that CAFOs "are one of the leading causes of water quality impairment in rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries, and the ocean as rain and snow carry nutrients into waterways throughout watersheds," EPA proposes to retain CAFOs as a Clean Water Act enforcement priority. EPA also believes that CAFO discharges contribute bacteria, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and metals to waterways and that these operations are highly concentrated in "areas with low income and non-white populations," creating environmental justice concerns.

    Factors for Selecting Individual CAFOs Likely to Remain

    EPA regional offices are currently directed to "work closely with states to identify specific geographic areas where CAFOs are having, or may have, a serious environmental or human health impact." EPA also focuses on "size and type of operation, proximity to waters of the U.S., proximity to impaired waters or priority watersheds, citizen complaints and manure spill data, environmental harm, compliance history, and environmental justice" in implementing its 2008-10 CAFO priority. There is no reason to doubt that this approach will continue through the 2011--2013 enforcement cycle if CAFOs are retained as a priority area.

    EPA is soliciting public comment through January 19 on the 15 potential priority areas and expects to release proposed guidance identifying the selected areas next month. CAFOs will likely remain an enforcement priority, and EPA may be more aggressive in this sector during the 22011--2013 period since discharge standards are now in place.