I wish the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources hadn’t decided to try and regulate fan exhaust from Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County layer houses as part of the farm’s Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit renewal process, but I’m glad that the egg producer hasn’t just accepted this regulatory power grab and is putting up a fight. I’ve worked in processing plants regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies, and I realize that the decision to not just say “Thank you, sir, may I have another” and take a stand when inspectors/regulators aren’t right is not a decision to be made without careful consideration. Everyone in the poultry industry should be glad that Rose Acre Farms is making a stand on this issue (see Rose Acre Farms, NC regulators battle in court in this issue).
Scrubbers and filters for fans?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signalled in recent rule guidance for concentrated animal feeding operations that they expect National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit writers to address ventilation exhaust materials like ammonia, dust and feathers where such materials fall immediately to the ground and can mix with rainwater. If Rose Acre Farm’s lawsuit fails, how long before the Environmental Protection Agency will expect best management practices for poultry house exhaust fan operation to include scrubbers and biofilters?
When Al Armendariz was a regional administrator for Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, he was captured on video explaining his view of the role of inspection and enforcement at the agency. He stated that he understands the Environmental Protection Agency policy to be to "crucify" a few oil and gas companies to get the rest of the industry to comply with the laws.
"I was in a meeting once, and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement," Armendariz said. "It's kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean: they’d go into little Turkish towns somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they’d run into, and they’d crucify them, and then, you know, that town was really easy to manage over the next few years."
Making an example of offenders
Armendariz said that by finding companies that are "not compliant with the law to make examples of them," the Environmental Protection Agency could maximize its enforcement capability with limited resources. Armendariz resigned from his position in April of 2012 after Sen. James Inhofe's office released the video.
I hope Rose Acre Farms wins its lawsuit; we certainly don’t need for the Environmental Protection Agency to “make an example” out of any poultry producers.