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Illinois One Step Closer to Improved Regulations For Factory Farms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2013

Media Contacts:  Danielle Diamond (815) 403-0278  or Karen Hudson (309) 742-8895

Illinois One Step Closer to Improved Regulations For Factory Farms

45-day public comment period opens on new CAFO rules to protect environment and human health:  Regulations set up first-ever registration of State’s polluting factory farms    

SPRINGFIELD, IL DECEMBER 2, 2013 In a significant action affecting Illinois’ environmental and community health, the Illinois Pollution Control Board ( Board ) has issued a notice in today’s Illinois Register on proposed new regulations for one of the state’s largest polluters factory farms, also known concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).   The State of Illinois has been at risk of losing its authority to administer the Clean Water Act for failure to adequately regulate CAFOs.   Last year the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) proposed a set of draft regulations to the Board due in part to pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make necessary changes to existing CAFO rules.

According to Dr. Kendall Thu of Northern Illinois University, a leading expert on the environmental and community impacts of CAFOs, Illinois water quality reports confirm that animal feeding operations are one of the top ten contributors of pollution in the state — a statistic that is likely underestimate since not all waterways are assessed and all CAFOs have not been accounted for.   CAFO-related waste spills and fish kills are a common occurrence in Illinois.   Since 2000, IEPA reports document 34 fish kills attributed to livestock waste releases in the state.

We are moving closer each day to a hard-fought and overdue win for the environment and public health in Illinois,  said Danielle Diamond, Executive Director of Socially Responsible Agriculture Project and an attorney for the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water. For years the state has had its opportunity to handle the CAFO pollution problem openly and responsibly, but chose to back factory farms over the public interest.   Today signals a change in that behavior. 

Last year, community and environmental stakeholders, including members of the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water (ICCAW), targeted a series of hearings across the state to call for tougher pollution controls for CAFOs.   Among the key improvements called for was a registration program for all unpermitted large factory farm operations.   The proposed accounting system would enable regulators to track where industrial-scale livestock operations are located in Illinois and determine their roles and cleanup responsibilities in hazardous and illegal pollution events.

Although the Illinois EPA has been charged with the responsibility to regulate CAFOs since the late 1970’s, to date the agency still does not have an accurate accounting of the hundreds of factory farms in the state or even know the actual whereabouts of many,  said Diamond. How can an agency regulate polluters if it doesn’t even know where they are? 

Concerns over the adequacy of the IEPA-proposed regulations led citizens and environmental groups to propose their own set of improved draft regulations to the Board, as did livestock industry groups who pushed for lesser regulations.   Included among the appealed-for improvements was a requirement that all Illinois CAFOs be held to the same pollution and waste management standards, regardless of their permit status.   In a disappointing move, the Board omitted this key rule change, following the IEPA’s milder recommendation to only strengthen pollution control requirements for permitted facilities.   Since very few CAFOs in Illinois are currently required to have permits, the vast majority of factory farms will be held to a lesser standard under the new rules.

We welcome the regulation changes that the Pollution Control Board has recommended, but they need to seriously rethink not holding all factory farms to the same standards,  said Karen Hudson, a farmer and co-founder of ICCAW.   Scientists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health confirm that people living near factory farms and areas where manure is disposed run a higher risk of dangerous and potentially life-threatening methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection.   Nothing less than our community health is on the line. 

The Board has initiated a 45-day public comment period to gather additional information and public comment before finalizing the regulations.   Those wanting to participate can contact ICCAW or go the Board’s website to view comments and order for instructions on how to submit comments at IPBC – In the Matter of: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

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 About Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP)

Socially Responsible Agricultural Project provides free, professional assistance to communities working to protect themselves from factory farms and their impact on local communities and populations, and to those who are trying to reclaim agriculture by producing and marketing sustainable agricultural goods. More information can be found at www.sraproject.org.

About Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW)

Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, a state-wide coalition of family farmers and community groups advocating for sound policies and practices that protect the environment, human health, and rural quality of life from the impacts of large-scale, industrialized livestock production facilities in Illinois. For more information about ICCAW, please go to www.iccaw.org.