Farming Groups Attack Pollution Reporting Proposals

US - A group of US agricultural organisations launched an attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans for farmers and ranchers to report waste discharge information on-line.
calendar icon 17 December 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

The farming groups including the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Council for Farmers’ Cooperatives, United Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, United Egg Producers, the US Poultry and Egg Association and the the American Farm Bureau Federation, is concerned that the E-reporting of the waste water discharges and pollution controls could breach confidentiality rules by publishing personal information.

In a letter to the EPA, the organisations have said that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule, 78 Fed. Reg. 46006, 46026 (July 30, 2013) (Docket No. EPA–HQ–OECA–2009–0274) (Proposed E-Reporting Rule) will lead to the unlawful dissemination of personal information about farmers.

Two of the organisations, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) are already engaged in litigation to prevent EPA from the unlawful public dissemination of farmers’ personal information through the FOIA request process1.

“Because this ongoing litigation bears directly on the issues contemplated here EPA should delay further development of the proposed E-Reporting Rule, at least insofar as it applies to farmers, until that litigation has concluded,” the orgaisations say.

“Moreover, because EPA’s collection of NPDES information from farmers will organize farmers’ personal information (i.e. personal names and home contact information) into a publicly available, searchable database, the proposed rule cannot properly be applied to farmers until EPA complies with the Privacy Act’s requirements for creating a “system of records”.

“EPA must also consider the important privacy protections found under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), something the current proposal fails to do.
There are profound implications for how CAFOs and the state agencies placed in the middle of this system between farmers and the Agency can properly meet expectations.

“Not only is the factual record incomplete, there are numerous liability questions for all parties, CAFO farmers, states and the Agency, should the system fail. These concerns are detailed below.

“We note and appreciate that the Agency has committed to offering “an additional opportunity for transparency and engagement by publishing a supplemental notice should we receive comments on the proposed rule that require significant changes” (FR 78, No. 146, 46,06).

“We believe in light of the comments below that the application of E-reporting policies to the CAFO community definitely requires a supplemental, proposed rulemaking.

“Indeed, EPA proposed and ultimately decided not to finalise a similar proposed NPDES CAFO Reporting Rule in 20112.

“We question whether the work that must be done to address these concerns could be completed in time to meet the commitment to publishing the supplement within 180 days of the close of the comment period and recommend that the Agency not hold itself to this time frame should the situation warrant a longer period of time.”


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