The White House approved a U.S. EPA rule last week that would allow certain livestock operations to bypass Clean Water Act permit requirements if they voluntarily certify that they do not discharge animal waste into waterways, according to a published report in Inside EPA.

The rule also would ensure that information within the livestock producers' nutrient management plan is available for public comment, reviewed by the permit authority and incorporated into relevant permits.

EPA spokesman Dave Ryan told Inside EPA that the agency is working to quickly finalize the rule but noted that the agency cannot discuss the decision until it is signed by Administrator Stephen Johnson in the last step in the rulemaking process. The text of the rule will not be available until then. "We will work with the state agencies to implement the final rule," Ryan said.

EPA drafted the rule in response to a 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 2005, Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA, which vacated the agency's 2003 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations rule. Both farm groups and environmentalists sued the agency over the 2003 rule, which expanded the number of operations covered by CAFO regulations and included requirements to address the land application of manure from CAFOs. The agency has estimated that the court decision could save CAFOs $15.4 million in administrative costs, although permitting authorities will see a net $500,000 annual increase in administrative costs.

Source: Western United Dairymen