It turns out history will not repeat itself…this time.
Just two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted to releasing private information of as many as 80,000 farmers and ranchers to activist organizations, drawing anger from both industry and political organizations. A lawsuit was even filed against the EPA to protect farmers’ privacy.
Earlier this week, a U.S. District Court judge tossed a lawsuit brought by animal rights and environmental activists over the EPA’s withdrawal of a proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) rule that would have required farmers and ranchers to report information about their livestock operations.
According to Courthouse News, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss found the EPA did not violate federal law when it withdrew its proposed rule. He found that because there is no mandate requiring all concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to self-report and that the CWA allows the EPA to use its “own discretion” in requiring information, the courts could not make that determination.
"The Court will not substitute its judgment about how the EPA should go about collecting information for the Administrator's reasonable determination of what is appropriate to effectuate the Agency's statutory mandate," Moss wrote.
Moss also called the EPA’s explanation for the withdrawal “plain and coherent,” and that it “adequately explained the basis for its decision.”
NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage said, “Let’s hope this puts an end to these groups, including HSUS, trying to get information on farmers so they can file nuisance suits and otherwise harass people who are providing safe, wholesome products to domestic and international consumers.”
The EPA proposed the rule in 2011 to require CAFOs to provide information on their facilities “due to the large impact that CAFOs have in releasing pollutants to water sources.” It was prompted by a May 2010 “sweetheart” settlement agreement between the EPA, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Waterkeeper Alliance. At the time, the Waterkeeper Alliance was represented by Hannah Connor, now an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States.
The EPA ultimately lifted the rule in 2012 after it determined it was not effective in reducing pollution or generating information about pollutants. Read, “Judge Affirms Looser EPA Livestock Restrictions”