EPA Deregulations: Good or bad for the environment, farmers?

The Bush Administration is pushing to pass a set of rules that could relax EPA restrictions on several industries including agriculture and environmental groups, and industry leaders are adamantly expressing their thoughts on this issue.

Environmental advocates say passage of this proposal could eliminate important safeguards that protect the environment from harmful pollution of several industries including agriculture.

Industry leaders say that the proposals would free business from unnecessary government involvement.

There are more than 170 livestock farms in Ohio, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture is reviewing applications from companies that want to build 18 more livestock farms.

Currently, farms are required to apply for permits with the EPA if they’re going to release anything into nearby steams. If the proposal passes, farms will no longer need a permit as long as they file plans that indicate what they’re doing. They also won’t need to report hazardous air pollutants released from animal waste. However, according to environmental groups this can actually cause more pollution and problems for the farms itself as well as the environment.

“Many farms store millions of gallons of liquefied manure in lagoons, which can leak or overflow into streams.” said Eric Schaeffer, director of Washington D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project. “If the farms don’t have to obtain permits and tell the state how they are doing, officials will have a difficult time punishing farms that do pollute streams.”

The proposal would also require power companies to install scrubbers and pollution filters on coal-fired power plants that are being renovated or repaired based on a plant’s hourly pollution rate instead of its annual production. These coal-fueled generators provide 89 percent of Ohio’s electricity.

“The plan would allow a refurbished plant to increase its pollution without adding scrubbers,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “A plant operating more hours at the old hourly rate could increase emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, by hundreds if not thousands of tons a year.”

Others believe these deregulations will help.

“Repairs that help a plant burn coal more efficiently could actually help lower its annual and hourly pollution emissions,” said John McManus, vice president of environmental services for American Electric Power. “The number of hours a plant operates doesn’t automatically increase after repairs.”

An EPA spokesperson said that the farm-rule changes would protect the environment and public health.

Do you think the passage of these proposals will hurt the environment? Or do you think they will minimize unnecessary government involvement? Please comment below.

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