The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has decided not to appeal the Northern District of West Virginia’s ruling in favor of poultry farmer, Lois Alt. The court ruled the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) did not regulate storm water runoff from the non-production areas of a farmyard. A great outcome for Lois Alt which may impact concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) across the country.
In 2012 the EPA handed Lois Alt an Administrative Compliance Order requiring Lois obtain a CWA discharge permit for storm water running off the area outside of her eight poultry houses. Generally, “agricultural storm water” is exempt under the CWA and Lois Alt refused to obtain the permit. In court, the EPA argued the exemption only applied to the crop production areas of a CAFO. The EPA also alleged the runoff was “industrial storm water” because it contained trace amounts of feathers, manure and dust. Essentially, the EPA was attempting to extend its authority over storm water runoff to areas beyond where animals, manure and feed are maintained and stored.
The court rejected both arguments finding runoff from non-producing areas are exempt as “agricultural storm water” even if it contains trace amounts of pollutants. The EPA initially filed a notice of appeal but has now dismissed the appeal.
The EPA claims it voluntarily decided to turn its attention to other issues. The American Farm Bureau Federation (who joined the lawsuit) believes the EPA withdrew out of fear of losing an appeal, thereby, establishing a legal precedent for future actions. Via The Voice of Agriculture.
Waving the white flag to Lois Alt does not mean the EPA will stop trying to extend its authority over storm water runoff. However, it gives CAFO owners some good ammunition to fight future attempts.