Last week, the D.C. District Court of Appeals reversed a 2008 rule set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that excluded factory farms from reporting toxic emissions derived from animal waste. The new ruling mandates Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to report ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions—toxic fumes that endanger the health of communities surrounding CAFOs. “We have no doubt that a desire for efficiency motivated some of the exceptions Congress provided,” Judge Stephen Williams wrote in the ruling, “but those concerns don’t give the agency carte blanche to ignore the statute whenever it decides the reporting requirements aren’t worth the trouble.” In a January report, water conservation agency International Joint Commission (IJC) found that CAFOs were decimating the Great Lakes region causing water toxicity levels in the waterways to rise dramatically. In the same month, an Iowa dairy factory farm was fined $160,000 for violating the Clean Water Act twelves times by dumping untreated waste from 10,000 cows into the Big Sioux River. In 2015, two Iowa repairmen (a father and his son) were killed after being engulfed by noxious fumes on a pig factory farm—only 22 days after the death of another father and son on a Wisconsin CAFO. The court’s decision, according to Judge Williams, was in part due to the serious, sometimes fatal, illnesses that people are exposed to on and around factory farms.
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