Ocean Acidification and the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

Great post over at Daily Kos about some tentative steps by EPA to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Water Act.  Oceans absorb roughly 1/4 of anthropogenic CO2.  The dissolved CO2 then forms carbonic acid, which lowers the pH of the seawater, which then causes (among other things) mass die-off of coral. 

Coral reefs are home to about 25% of marine species.  When they go, everything goes.  We don’t hear as much about ocean acidification as we should.  Maybe now we will.  In any event, if the agency goes forward with this initiative, we’ll certainly be hearing plenty of caterwauling from the deniers.

Stay tuned.

EPA Takes on a CAFO and Wins

David Cassuto

From the email — some good news from the good people at EPA Region 2.  What I like about this is that EPA is inspecting CAFOS and that it is (at least sometimes) able to use the Clean Water Act as an enforcement mechanism.

Administrative Settlement Reached with Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

On March 10, 2010, Region 2 issued a final order finalizing a settlement
with Berkshire Valley Dairy, LLC, for its violations of the Clean Water
Act and the regulations governing the operation of large concentrated
animal feeding operations.  The Respondent is a dairy farm that confines
approximately 1000 mature dairy cows and 300 heifers and heifer calves.
On April 21, 2009, and again on May 7, 2009, EPA conducted Compliance
Evaluation Inspections of the facility and observed numerous violations
of the CWA and its implementing regulations, including the discharge of
manure to a tributary of Roeliff Jansen Kill and numerous failures to
adequately document and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan, best management practices, inspections, and proper operations and maintenance of the facility.  On June 29, 2009, EPA issued an Administrative Order directing the Respondent to correct its violations, and on January 12, 2010, EPA issued an administrative Complaint, proposing to assess a penalty of $12,000. 

Under the March 10, 2010 settlement, the Respondent will pay a penalty of $8,100.

Factory Farms, Mark Bittman and TSCA — An Unlikely Trio

David Cassuto

Intriguing blog post by Mark Bittman, of all people, wondering whether industrial meat could be illegal under TSCA , the Toxic Substances Control Act (not to be confused with Tosca, the Puccini opera).  The argument would be that TSCA gives the EPA authority to regulate substances that pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,” which greenhouse gases do, and industrial agriculture is a prime source of greenhouse gases (which they are).  So… there’s a potential case to be made for the strict regulation of industrial agriculture under TSCA.

It’s a creative argument and I, of course, salute the intent.  But I’m skeptical.  As an initial matter, TSCA “does not include chemical substances subject to other US statutes such as foods and food additives, pesticides, drugs, cosmetics, tobacco, nuclear material, or munitions.” Greenhouse gases are indeed subject to other U.S. statutes (i.e. the Clean Air Act); this was the gravamen of the Massachusetts v. EPA case and the reason for the EPA’s recent “endangerment finding” that Bittman references in the post.   Continue reading