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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ind. Gov't. - "Bill to reduce regulations on livestock operations raising concerns"

Supplementing this Feb. 21st ILB post headed "Does vote on mega farms stink?" Carol Kugler reports in the $$ Bloomington Herald Times (here reprinted in part in Indiana Economic Digest) - some quotes:

Under current Indiana law, anyone who plans to operate, start construction on or expand a confined feeding operation must submit an application and receive a permit from IDEM before construction or expansion of the facility can begin.

Before approval is given, IDEM engineers review the design and conduct inspections of buildings and manure storage structures. There are also routine and complaint-based inspections.

That could change if House Bill 1494 is passed this year by the Indiana Legislature, and representatives of the Hoosier Environmental Council as well as Hoosier residents are opposing the bill, which they believe takes away some of the needed rules and regulations governing confined feeding operations.

In the synopsis for HB 1494, it states that it would replace the “current prohibition against starting construction or expansion of a CFO without the prior approval of the Department of Environmental Management with the requirement that a person obtain a permit to construct and operate a confined feeding operation.”

The Hoosier Environmental Council is opposed to taking away the rules and regulations that help ensure there are no environmental issues related to the confined feeding operations. Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney and director of agriculture policy for the advocacy group, said the proposed bill would take away the need for a person or company wanting to start or expand a CFO to notify neighbors and the county government before a permit is issued.

State Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw, author of the bill, said that it would not change the current law, saying that the bill’s wording that a person must obtain a permit means that they must have prior approval from IDEM to receive that permit. “We did not change any existing state requirement” in the bill, Wolkins said.

More from the story:
Another major concern of the Hoosier Environmental Council and Ferraro is that the actual person or organization that applies for the CFO permit no longer would have to be the person or corporation that owns the facility. Also, HB 1494 would allow a person or company applying for the permit to disclose only those prior environmental violations of federal, state or foreign laws that happened in the past five years.

Ferraro said one fear is that large corporations will be able to hide behind someone else who will file for either a new or expanded feeding operation. The concern is that no one will know who the true decision makers for the operation are until it’s too late.

“House Bill 1494 in isolation might not be as problematic,” Ferraro said, but the bill takes current law “further in the wrong direction.” She was also concerned that not disclosing the whole history of environmental violations would not give an accurate portrayal of the applicant.

When asked about those concerns, Wolkins said his proposed bill would be looking into the history of the person who is directly responsible for the operation. “The thought is that the investor who puts money into it, why should they have to go through a background check?”

Before the bill was passed out of committee by a vote of 7 to 3, there were three hearings this month for proponents and opponents to talk to the House Environmental Affairs Committee. Ferraro said there was “standing room only” at all three of the hearings, with most of the people speaking in opposition to the bill.

After the committee voted to allow the bill to move forward, Ferraro sent out a statement that said in part, “Our lawmakers should be looking for ways to address the serious gaps in public health safeguards that leave our environmental and rural communities vulnerable and create perverse incentives for industrial livestock agriculture at the expense of sustainable farmers.

“Our legal opinion remains that HB 1494 would make matters worse by further weakening state permitting requirements for factory farms and making it even easier for factory farms to proliferate regardless of their impact on property values, our lakes and streams, the air we breathe and the quality of life in our rural communities.”

ILB: Rep. Wolkin is also the author of the "no more stringent" law, vetoed last year but overridden earlier this month. The measure prevents prevents state environmental standards from being stricter than federal requirements without prior legislative review.

Given that the new head of U.S. EPA has vowed to eliminate a large number of federal environmental regulations, leaving each state to craft its own limitations, this could pose serious challenges in coming years.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 23, 2017 09:00 AM
Posted to Indiana Government