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American Farm Bureau Federation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 27, 2015

American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council, Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Gina McCarthy, Defendants, and Food & Water Watch, Environmental Integrity Project, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Intervenors.

Jay C. Johnson, Esq., Venable LLP, Minneapolis, MN for Plaintiff.

Pamela Marentette, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN for Defendants.

Jeffrey Gulley, Esq., Government Accountability Project, Washington, D.C. for Intervenors.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 17, 2014, the undersigned United States District Court Judge heard oral argument on the above captioned parties' cross motions for Summary Judgment [Docket Nos. 84 and 98] and Intervenors' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 91]. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' and Intervenors' motions are GRANTED based on Plaintiffs' lack of standing.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Farms that confine large numbers of animals for more than 45 days during a growing season in an area that does not produce vegetation are called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations ("CAFOs"). The Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") has identified agriculture in general, and CAFOs in particular, as a leading source of pollution in our nation's rivers and streams. Nagle Decl. [Docket No. 69] ¶ 13. The Clean Water Act ("CWA") names CAFOs as "point sources" of pollution. Id . ¶ 7; See also 33 U.S.C. § 1311(a).

B. The Environmental Protection Agency's duties under the Clean Water Act

The CWA requires the EPA to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Nagle Decl. ¶ 4; See 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a). The CWA also restricts the pollutants that are permitted from point sources, like CAFOs. 33 U.S.C. § 1311(a). Agriculture pollution discharges are generally regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit program. Nagle Decl. ¶ 7; See 33 U.S.C. § 1342. NPDES permits for CAFOs require disclosure of the farm's location and other operational details. Nagle Decl. ¶ 10; See 40 C.F.R. §§ 122.21(i), 122.23(d). Most states are authorized to administer NPDES programs and state and federal regulations require that information collected by the states be made public. 40 C.F.R. § 123.41(a).

C. EPA's collection of CAFO information

In 2008, the General Accountability Office issued a report concluding that the EPA did not possess the "reliable information it needs to identify and inspect CAFOs nationwide." Nagle Dec. ¶¶ 15, 74. Initially, the EPA proposed a regulation that would have required CAFOs to report information to the Agency directly. Id . ¶ 18. The EPA withdrew the proposed rule after receiving many comments in opposition from industry representatives. Nagle Decl. ¶ 21. ...


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