The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) has settled with Rose Acre Farms and withdrawn its position that air emissions from the company’s Hyde County layer farm should be regulated as a “discharge” from the farm, reported Joseph Miller, general counsel, Rose Acre Farms.

He told the members of the United Egg Producers Environmental Committee at the group’s Legislative Board Meeting in Washington D.C. that NC DENR capitulated on its decade long attempt to regulate air emissions as water pollutants just last week.

The history of the case

Rose Acre had filed suit against the NC DENR regarding the state’s demand that the farm obtain a Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for emissions of air pollutants that subsequently affect surface waters in the state. The effects of air emissions on surface waters have been considered beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act’s authority in the past, and DENR’s approach had the potential to subject a wide variety of previously unregulated emission sources to regulation.

Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County egg farm and egg packing operation houses around 3.5 million hens. The complex’s original NPDES permit required that 100 percent of the manure generated at the complex be composted, and done so to specific standards for temperature and time.

When the complex’s NPDES permit was up for renewal in 2009, the state required Rose Acre to implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce the amount of ammonia emitted to the atmosphere through the ventilation systems in the high-rise houses. Because of court rulings regarding which farms are required to have an NPDES permit which were settled after Rose Acre first received an NPDES permit for the Hyde County complex, most farms with dry litter operations were determined to not require NPDES permits.

Rose Acre contested the requirement that the Hyde County complex even required an NPDES permit. The company also contested the requirement of BMPs for control of atmospheric deposition of ammonia, and the imposition of BMPs that had not been adopted or approved using the process required by the Tar-Pamlico River Basin NSW Management Strategy.