EPA Outpaces Dept. Of Ag On Megafarm Crackdown

COLUMBUS — Environmental regulators are playing as strong a role as ever fighting pollution by Ohio’s giant livestock farms five years after the state handed its agriculture experts the job.
calendar icon 3 September 2007
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State data show that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has fielded more agriculture-related complaints on average since the power transfer, and EPA fines against megafarm operators since August 2002 have dwarfed those levied by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

One reason for the shared authority: The U.S. EPA has yet to agree that the regulatory program run by Agriculture is meeting all the environmental standards necessary to govern as Ohio EPA did.

In an April letter, Water Division Chief Jo Lynn Traub raised seven pages of concerns over Ohio’s rules for megafarms, mostly related to the way megafarms handle the manure their operations generate.

Agriculture receives most of the tax money spent on overseeing big farms: More than $9 million between 2001 and last year, and $3 million budgeted now.

State lawmakers in 2002 moved oversight of the farms to the Agriculture Department, an agency they viewed as more expert in dealing with farmers and farm issues.

Most of the enforcement against polluting farms was being handled by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which watches out for the health of streams and tributaries where most of the runoff drains, state reports say. But farmers complained loudest about EPA, which carries the strongest legal hammer over them in the federal Clean Water Act.

Source: ZanesvilleTimesRecorder
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