Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Confined Situation

A new report from the GAO suggests that contrary to everything we've been hearing lately, there may be a downside to the deregulation of politically powerful industries:

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) are large livestock and poultry operations that raise animals in a confined situation....[T]hese operations can produce from 2,800 tons to 1.6 million tons of manure a year....

EPA has not yet assessed the extent to which pollutants from animal feeding operations may be impairing human health and the environment because it lacks key data on the amount of pollutants being discharged by these operations.
Some might argue that the figure of "2,800 tons to 1.6 million tons of manure" per CAFO comprises "key data on the amount of pollutants being discharged by these operations," at least in terms of making a urgent case for action.

And indeed, an urgent case for action has been made:
The EPA's proposal, announced in December, would exempt animal-feeding operations from reporting emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide above 100 pounds per day. A spokesman for the EPA said Tuesday that the goal of the proposal is "reducing reporting burdens and protecting public health and the environment.
As for the more pressing question of water pollution, the GAO reports that "EPA currently has no plans to conduct a national study to collect information on CAFO water pollutant discharges."

Fortunately, there's no evidence that relaxing oversight and easing regulations has ever caused any problem that taxpayers couldn't solve by bailing out the negligent parties.

(Photo: Flooded hog farm in North Carolina, ©Neuse River Foundation/Rick Dove.)

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