Sunday 22 April 2018

Agriculture (30)

Transparency Can Lead to Clean Water & Lower Costs Featured

Marylanders expect transparent government. This transparency is essential across all sectors of government and industry, including agricultural waste management. Without access to this information, local communities and citizens cannot be assured that these operations are not polluting the water that Marylanders rely on for drinking, swimming and fishing. That’s why Waterkeepers Chesapeake along with Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition (MCAC) are supporting legislation to address a significant loophole in current law that makes it impossible to obtain access to public records through a Public Information Act request if those records are held by agricultural operations. Maryland’s agriculture industry is afforded a level of secrecy that no other industry in our state enjoys, despite being heavily subsidized. Closing this loophole is critical to advancing transparency in the state, as well as to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. As currently written, Agric. § 8-801.1, a provision of the Maryland Water Quality Improvement Act, requires most farms to follow Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) and annually submit a plan summary to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). These plans are not written by the farmers themselves, but with the support of professional planners who are paid for with our public dollars. Current law requires MDA to “maintain a copy of each summary for 3 years in a manner that protects the identity of the individual for whom the nutrient management plan was prepared.” Although this provision seems to only affect MDA’s disclosure of identifying information, such as the owner’s name and unique plan ID number, from the plan summaries…

EPA Guidance Falls Short of Protecting Communities Featured

Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste Will Continue Sometimes our job as Waterkeepers can get very wonky. And this is one of those times. Not only do we comment on and challenge flawed regulations, we also slog through the guidance documents that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drafts about how these regulations should be interpreted and applied. Last month, the EPA released a Guidance regarding a new requirement that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) – known as factory farms -- report the release of hazardous substances from their facilities. This Guidance came a few months after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that CAFOs are not exempt from the reporting requirements under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The decision was meant to close a EPA loophole that has long exempted CAFOs from reporting the same hazardous substances – like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide – as other industries. The Court reasoned that public health professionals and emergency responders would need this information to adequately respond to emergencies and community threats. Under the ruling, a CAFO owner or operator must notify federal authorities under CERCLA and state and local authorities under EPCRA after it releases a large amount of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide. The EPA estimates that nearly three-quarters of the country’s ammonia emissions come from CAFOs. According to the Government Accountability Office, the amount of manure from CAFOs ranges from 2,800 tons to 1.6…
Join your Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, along with neighbors and the brave defenders of the Potomac watershed on November 5th in Chevy Chase, Maryland from 7-10pm at the Meadowbrook Park Activity Building. We will celebrate and learn about our unique watershed and a small community's fight against a large hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Fulton County, PA.  This factory-like facility would be the largest in the county and would house close to 9,000 hogs, while confining sows to production of 9,600 piglets each month – or 115,200 piglets annually. With this many pigs comes even more manure. The CAFO would apply over 11.4 million gallons of manure to land in our watershed and use an estimated 14 million gallons of water each year. Our upstream neighbors and community members, led by homeowner Marjorie Hudson (pictured below) - who lives across from the proposed hog CAFO - have opposed the project since it was proposed in 2014. Thanks to their efforts, they have been able to stop the CAFO from polluting nearby air, land and waterways. The location of the proposed CAFO is on a hill that drains into tributaries of Big Cove Creek, a popular fishing location. The waters of Big Cove Creek flow into Licking Bend Creek, which is a tributary of the Potomac River. The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and provides drinking water for approximately 4.5 million people.  Marjorie and her neighbors can't go it alone - they need our support! Please join us in support of Marjorie’s life-sustaining work…