Truly Crappy Oversight

Among the stories overlooked in DC last week: an indictment of factory farming by the Government Accountability Office, which issued a report on feedlot waste stating, among other things:

Some large farms that raise animals can generate more raw waste than the populations of some U.S. cities produce annually.

(Here’s the GAO’s own summary of its report, with links to the full thing.) The agency prepared the report for a House committee that was considering a proposed EPA rule change that would eliminate a requirement for farms to report when their air emissions of dangerous substances like ammonia have exceeded accepted levels.

The EPA claims that the requirement is gratuitous and the reports are widely ignored. The GAO disagrees: Since 2002, 15 government-sponsored or peer-reviewed studies have “directly linked air and water pollutants from animal waste to specific health or environmental impacts.” From the dry but deadly summary:

EPA has not yet assessed the extent to which these pollutants may be impairing human health and the environment because it lacks key data on the amount of pollutants that are being emitted from animal feeding operations. As a first step in developing air emissions protocols for animal feeding operations, in 2007, a 2-year nationwide air emissions monitoring study, largely funded by industry, was initiated. However, as currently structured, the study may not provide the scientific and statistically valid data it was intended to provide.

It’s the regulatory version of “Oh, no you didn’t.”

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