December 11, 2008

Team Obama In Action: The Outlook for EPA

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

Given today’s announcement of Obama’s likely appointment of Lisa Jackson as Administrator of the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), how will the Obama platform impact the policy issues of importance to CLF?

Environmental Policy and the Clean Air Act

Major changes in air pollution and climate change policy are expected under the Obama Administration.  Obama’s environmental platform calls for an 80 pecent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many anticipate President-elect Obama to direct the EPA to use the Clean Air Act of 1990 as a guideline for setting carbon dioxide emission limits on power plants and other facilities.  It is also expected that Obama will sign the California auto-emission waiver, rejected by President Bush, which would require that greenhouse gas emission from vehicles are cut by 30 percent by 2016.  With the help of incoming House Energy and Commerce Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), a strong supporter of environmental issues, these initiatives may be possible. 

CAFO Regulations and the Clean Water Act

Turning to the Obama Administration’s policy on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), Obama has laid out plans to strictly regulate pollution from CAFOs with fines imposed on those that violate standards.  His platform also emphasizes the need for local control and regulation of large factory livestock farms.  Measures to promote organic and local agriculture and to encourage regional food systems are also likely.

The EPA released its most recent CAFO regulations on November 20.  The rule, which revises the Clean Water Act to modify the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), addresses changes to current regulations over CAFO permits and effluent limitations related to the discharge of manure into waterways.  Among other provisions, the rule will require CAFOs to submit a nutrient management plan (NMP) for manure as part of its Clean Water Act permit application and to make the plan and permit available for public review and comment.

However, many environmental advocates are concerned by the rule’s provision to allow CAFOs, regardless of how large, to self-certify that they do not intend to discharge animal waste into U.S. water. Advocacy groups such as the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (SAC) have announced their intent to ask the Obama Adminstration to revisit the rulemaking in 2009.  Martha Noble, Senior Policy Association for SAC, issued a statement saying “President-elect Obama’s rural and agriculture platform includes tougher environmental regulations on CAFOs, including fines for those who violate air and water quality standards. The new rule issues by EPA today makes it even more urgent to President-elect Obama to address this issues immediately after taking office.”

The rule is set to take effect on December 22.

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