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Industrial Agriculture:
National / International Edition

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News Items on the EPA's 2005
"Get-out-of-jail-free-card"
for CAFOs that pollute
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This was the lead editorial in the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal for 25 January 2005:

                  Bush's forgiving EPA

                  One depressing consequence of George W. Bush's war in Iraq is that it diverts
                   attention from all sorts of other messes created by his administration.

                    Among the most obvious of those are environmental setbacks  -- "nearly 150
                    destructive policy actions over the past year alone," says this month's
                    report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC attorney Robert
                    Kennedy Jr. charges, "An almost daily barrage of weakening policy changes
                    over the past four years threatens decades of hard-won environmental
                    progress."

                    And the beat goes on. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to
                    extend an amnesty to factory farms if they agree to pay a one-time penalty,
                    support air monitoring and try to reduce noxious emissions.

                    EPA says this will clean up commercial-scale agriculture faster than court
                    action. Environmentalists say it's just a "get out of jail free" card, issued
                    by an administration that is steadily gutting federal regulation.

                    Former Gov. Paul Patton tried to control Kentucky's big chicken and hog
                    operations, especially in Western Kentucky. He didn't want that region
                    polluted in the way Maryland's Chesapeake Bay has been by poultry waste and
                    North Carolina's Neuse River has been by pig manure. He was thwarted by the
                    state legislature.

                    EPA later required water pollution permits for such farms, but under more
                    lenient regulations than those proposed by the Clinton administration and
                    under privacy provisions that impede public monitoring. The inevitable result
                    has been court suits.

                    That's where disagreements over the farms' air pollution, including at
                    several hundred Kentucky and Indiana operations, also could end up †in
                    court. But now the Bush EPA is offering immunity for past and future Clean
                    Air Act violations, in exchange for a penalty of between $200 and $100,000,
                    plus $2,500 for air-monitoring and a promise to adopt better prevention
                    methods.

                    Thomas V. Skinner, an EPA acting assistant administrator, described this as
                    "a huge step forward." But in fact it could give miscreants legal cover under
                    which to duck when beleaguered neighbors sue over the stink and the danger.

                    The GOP long has been the party of business, but until the Reagan Revolution
                    it still claimed also to be the party of conservationists such as Theodore
                    Roosevelt. Under George W. Bush, any such pretense is no longer possible.

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More on the EPA from The Village Voice, 9 February 2005

"Asthma Goes Rural, Thanks to Amnesty for Polluters"
 by Aina Hunter
The Village Voice
 February 9th, 2005 11:57 AM

Under a new plan by the Bush administration, more rural youngsters in
New York and elsewhere will reap the heart and lung benefits ghetto
youth enjoy as local animal factories stink it up with complete impunity
for at least the next couple of years.

Slaughterhouses will be free to spew pollutants for at least two years
as long as they comply with an emissions-monitoring program.
Conveniently enough, compliance doesn't involve any more work than
already required under the Clean Air Act.

Physicians for Responsible Medicine have long linked the growing
increase in kiddie asthma to air pollution, belying recent reports
suggesting that mouse droppings and cockroaches are behind city kids'
breathing problems. Car smog, free-floating ozone, and the yellowish
sulfur dioxide belched from old power plants are the most important
forces behind the doubling of asthma rates since the eighties, the
activist doctors say. And black children may suffer the most, since
nearly 80 percent of them nationwide live within 30 miles of a power
plant. In New York City alone, an estimated one in four black children
has trouble breathing.

Still, upstate New Yorkers need not feel left behind. Having already
saturated the Midwest, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (industry
jargon for huge meat and dairy processors) have been creeping into the
Empire State, causing what local activists call the fastest growing
public health crisis in New York. Complaints filed by people who live in
CAFO-dominated towns like those in Cayuga and Erie counties talk about
wall-penetrating ammonia stench, dirty ground water, nausea, and burning
eyes. The state Department of Environmental Conservation and local
health departments have had little to say, but science has caught on.
Exposure to the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in animal factories causes
bronchitis and heart swelling, say researchers at Iowa State University.

Paradoxically, as Bush administration relaxes the few controls left on
the animal industry, the courts are recognizing the health risks assumed
by those living anywhere near meat and dairy CAFOs. Tyson foods just
settled a big lawsuit brought by three Kentucky residents claiming that
breathing chicken-house ammonia made them sick. Horror stories of rural
stench abound. Last month a Georgia TV station reported that flies from
a Harris County chicken CAFO were driving residents crazy, even
terrorizing their children. Plagues of flies aside, animal excrement has
been regulated by the Clean Air Act. Presumably the big fines levied
against violators served as some deterrent. But thanks to an agreement
signed the day after the Bush inauguration, massive meat processors like
Tyson Foods (which has the distinction of owning one of three U.S.
slaughterhouses held up by Human Rights Watch as a violator of
international work-place standards) will soon be free to churn fresh
country air into out-house smog while the EPA investigates the
increasing problem of slaughterhouse pollution. The processors just pay
a flat, one-time fee for assumed past transgressions. It's a sweet deal
for Tyson, which, coincidentally, helped pay for the Bush inauguration
in DC.
 

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Back to our opening page for:
INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE: National / International Edition

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This webpage from
Concerned Citizens of Hartford
20 February 2005
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