Bush EPA Let Factory Farm Industry Draft Their Own Air Pollution Rules

Internal documents made public this week reveal that the Bush Administration granted almost unbelievable influence to livestock industry lobbyists in a proposed amnesty deal for factory farm polluters. The favors included a series of secret meetings with government officials, and the opportunity to draft portions of the Environmental Protection Agency's power-point presentation on a proposed air pollution monitoring program. [1]

The documents formed the basis of a May 16 Chicago Tribune expose of the degree to which meat industry lobbyists controlled the direction and content of proposed federal air pollution regulations that would apply to them. According to the Tribune, industry was granted such an influential role over the development of air pollution controls that several EPA officials resigned. It also led state and local officials to walk out of EPA meetings on the subject. [2]

The meetings were closed to environmental groups or other opponents of the plan. What took place at these secret meetings – and in subsequent communications between meat industry lobbyists and EPA officials -- was unearthed largely as the result of a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club last September under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The Sierra Club requested the documents from EPA after word leaked out about the meetings and a sweetheart deal that would exempt factory farms from Clean Air Act and Superfund regulations. Under the deal, factory farms that agree to a two-year monitoring program become exempt from federal air pollution enforcement during that time. Furthermore, they are not held accountable for any previous violations of federal air pollution laws.

"They let everyone off the hook," said Barclay Rogers, an attorney with the Sierra Club, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "Everyone who signs up gets protection. It's a 'get out of jail free' card." [3]

Giant factory farms dominate the U.S. meat industry - packing thousands of hogs, cattle and chicken onto a few massive farms. As a result, they are a major source of air emissions of hazardous gases and particulate matter proven to cause lung ailments and even premature death.

The internal EPA documents reveal a relationship between EPA officials and meat industry lobbyists so cozy it involves the EPA advising lobbyists on how to make their case to the agency.

In turn, meat industry lobbyists were allowed to develop legal language for the monitoring program and power-point slides for the agency to use in presenting its plans. There was even discussion of industry footing the bill for EPA travel costs, an idea later rejected when one EPA official admitted it had been a "no-no" for EPA to even ask. [4]

This is not the first time the Bush administration has allowed industry to heavily influence environmental rules by which it is supposed to live. After discovering that portions of EPA's proposal to regulate mercury emissions had been copied verbatim from energy industry lobbying materials, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Allen (D-ME) wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to complain that the agency’s rulemaking process had been "improperly influenced by industry at the potential cost of the health of future generations of children." [5]

[1] Sierra Club press release, May 17, 2004
[2] "Livestock Industry Finds Friends in EPA," Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2004.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Sierra Club press release, op. cit.
[5] Waxman-Allen letter, Feb. 12, 2004.

Source: http://www.bushgreenwatch.org/mt_archives/000121.php


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