WASHINGTON — The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia has ruled the American Farm Bureau Federation has a right to join in a lawsuit over the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate poultry and livestock farms under the Clean Water Act.
In July, AFBF asked for permission to join on the side of Hardy County, West Virginia, poultry grower Lois Alt, who brought suit to challenge an EPA order that she obtain a CWA discharge permit for stormwater runoff from her farmyard.
The West Virginia Farm Bureau has also joined the lawsuit.
EPA opposed the Farm Bureaus’ participation.
EPA says it will fine. Alt sued EPA in June after the agency ordered her to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharge permit.
EPA’s order threatens Alt with $37,500 in fines for each time stormwater comes into contact with dust, feathers or dander on the ground outside of her poultry houses, or small amounts of manure that may be present in the farmyard as a result of normal poultry farming operations.
EPA also seeks separate fines if Alt fails to apply for an NPDES permit.
According to AFBF’s intervention papers, EPA’s order to Alt represents the latest EPA attempt to regulate non-discharging farmers — this time by unlawfully narrowing the statutory exemption for “agricultural stormwater discharges.”
EPA has claimed here that the agricultural stormwater exemption does not apply to larger farms that qualify as concentrated animal feeding operations, except for certain “land application areas” where crops are grown.
According to Judge John Preston Bailey, however, AFBF and WVFB demonstrated that a ruling upholding EPA’s order would harm numerous other farmers and ranchers.
Under EPA’s reasoning, Bailey stated, “virtually every large [CAFO] would likely have an obligation to obtain a federally mandated permit if it rains enough in their area to wash manure and dust particles off their land and eventually into a jurisdictional water.”