U.S. EPA denies ag department transfer request

Larry Limpf

News Editor

A request by the State of Ohio to transfer certain regulatory responsibilities covering Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the Ohio Department of Agriculture has been denied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A Nov. 16 letter to Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, from the U.S. EPA Region 5 office states the request is incomplete under codified federal regulations and “there is no reasonable expectation the state will cure the deficiencies in the request in the near future.”
The request was initiated in July 2015 by the administration of former Governor John Kasich which sought to transfer regulatory authority over National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for CAFOs and for stormwater discharges.
Debra Shore, Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager of the U.S. EPA Region 5, says in the letter the state hasn’t responded to the U.S. EPA requests in 2019 or 2020 for additional statutory information.
“As part of our review of the state’s request, EPA sent you a letter on Aug. 9, 2019, providing 11 comments identifying statutory provisions in …the Ohio Revised Code for further clarification or revision, and a letter on July 1, 2020 providing 70 comments identifying provisions of….the Ohio Administrative Code where clarification or revision may be necessary to ensure ODA has adequate authority to implement the requested portions of the of the NPDES program,” the letter says.
The U.S. EPA also provided grant funding to the ODA in 2020 to help the department address any regulatory changes of the CAFO NPDES permit program to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.
However, the state didn’t expend any grant funds to complete work covered by the grant, which ended Dec. 31, 2021, according to the letter.
Still, the U.S. EPA left the door open to considering a revised request in the future that incorporates statutory and regulatory changes that meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
For Vickie and Larry Askins, of Cygnet, the denial of the transfer is a temporary win in a legal battle initiated when the ODA in 2004 issued a draft permit for a CAFO with 1,765 cows and a 24-million-gallon manure pit less than one mile from their home.
As the ODA proceeded with issuing permits to CAFOs in Wood County, the Askins joined with Wood County Citizens Opposed to Factory Farms and appealed to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission and petitioned the U.S. EPA Region 5 office to withdraw Ohio’s permitting authority.
They also filed a complaint with the U.S. EPA Inspector General after then Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine opined in 2015 the “…rules adopted …by the ODA provide adequate legal authority…to …enforce a partial permit program for a major category of discharges in Ohio now covered under…the Ohio EPA.”
The group Lake Erie Advocates also has been opposing CAFOs in the Maumee River Watershed, arguing they pollute waterways into Lake Erie and are a major contributor to algal blooms in the lake.


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