Thirteen environmental groups sue EPA on CAFO Rule

September 21, 2023

On Sept. 9, 2023, Food & Water Watch (FWW) and a dozen other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking the court to reject EPA's denial last month of the groups’ two petitions that sought to make Clean Water Act CAFO rule regulations more aggressive and stringent.

The initial petitions requested EPA to revise the NPDES system permitting requirements, effluent limitations, and standards for CAFOs. Specifically, the initial petitions called on EPA to adopt a “rebuttable presumption” that all CAFOs are discharging and are either subject to NPDES permitting or must demonstrate they do not discharge.  The initial petitions also sought a revision of EPA's interpretation of the agricultural stormwater exemption such that no dischargesresulting from CAFO activities are exempt as non-point source pollution.

National animal agriculture trade associations are very concerned that a lawsuit like this one in the 9th Circuit could lead to a harmful decision for animal agriculture, ultimately creating a bad legal precedent and forcing nationwide changes in the CAFO rule, and are actively exploring options to intervene in the lawsuit. This litigation will run parallel to, but could end up superseding, EPA's recently announced effort to update the Effluent Limitation Guidelines for livestock farms over the next two years, as well as forming a new EPA Advisory Committee to study water quality impacts of livestock farms in light of the current CAFO rule. UEP will continue actively engaging in all facets of this issue. For additional information, please contact Tom Hebert or Lauren Lurkins.