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EPA Works Out Secret Deal with Factory Farms
Bush Greenwatch
December 17, 2003

The EPA has been holding secret meetings with the agribusiness industry this year, putting together a "sweetheart deal" with lobbyists to exempt factory farms from Clean Air Act and Superfund regulations.

The EPA has proposed offering "an industry-wide pardon" for air pollution violations to massive hog, cattle and chicken farms, says Sierra Club attorney Barclay Rogers.

"This deal is being negotiated behind closed doors, and the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are trying to pry those doors open through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act," Rogers told Bush Greenwatch.

The lawsuit demands the Bush Administration divulge information about the secret meetings between EPA and industry.[1] Even though documents had been leaked to environmental groups, EPA denied the existence of a deal until after the lawsuit was filed in September. The plaintiffs have asked the court to order EPA to immediately turn over its records.

A copy of the deal obtained by environmentalists indicates that EPA would agree not to pursue factory farms for polluting if they paid a $500 penalty and agreed to take part in a study to monitor emissions.[2]

Localities, some of which have been unable to meet air quality standards because of farm emissions, have complained.

"The result would be an evisceration of states' and localities' ability to address air quality problems emanating from agricultural operations," two organizations representing state and local air quality officials said in a letter to EPA.

A small number of corporate farming giants dominate the U.S. meat industry -- in 2001, for instance, 75 percent of all hogs were packed into just 9 percent of U.S. hog farms, resulting in roughly 5,000 hogs per operation.[3] With so many animals -- and manure -- concentrated onto so few farms, they are a major source of air emissions of hazardous gases and particulate matter proven to cause lung ailments and even premature death.

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