Challenging Factory Farms’ Exemption from Pollution Reporting Requirements
Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help v United States Environmental Protection Agency
The Animal Legal Defense Fund joined a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's policy of exempting most factory farms from the legal requirement to report the release of hazardous materials into the environment.
In 2020, the lawsuit survived the defendants' motion to dismiss.
Finishing the process of obtaining the administrative record
The Animal Legal Defense Fund joined a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) policy of exempting factory farms known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) from the legal requirement to report the release of hazardous materials into the environment.
The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, with the Center for Food Safety, Don’t Waste Arizona, the Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
In 2008, the EPA issued a rule exempting all but the largest CAFOs from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act‘s (EPCRA) requirement that pollution from animal waste be reported to state and local governments, and the public. This rule was vacated in 2017 by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The EPA then issued new “guidance” to the CAFO industry, once again exempting most CAFOs from the EPCRA reporting requirements.
This lawsuit argues that this exemption poses serious risks by denying communities information necessary to stay safe from poisonous substances, and that in issuing the EPCRA exemptions the EPA failed to follow the rulemaking process required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Who is being sued, why, and under what law? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, on the grounds that the agency violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to follow its required rulemaking process, acting in excess of the agency’s legal authority, and exempting CAFOs from EPCRA pollution reporting requirements without a sound legal basis.
What court is the lawsuit filed in? U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Why this case is important: CAFOs generate massive amounts of waste, contaminating air, drinking water, and surface waters, impacting the health of both people and animals. Due to the threats these facilities pose to the environment and public health, EPCRA requires CAFOs to report the hazardous waste they discharge into the environment. Exempting most CAFOs from these reporting requirements greatly undercuts environmental protection, and poses a risk to humans’ and animals’ health.
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