June 17, 2024

MI Supreme Court: Protect Waterways From Factory Farms

Environmental groups are urging the Michigan Supreme Court to protect waterways from factory farms runoff, according to Food & Water Watch. A friend of the court briefing was filed last week, asking the Court to reverse a lower court ruling that locked in a Clean Water Act permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). That agency says that this lets these huge animal operations pollute Michigan’s waters.

MI Supreme Court: Protect Waterways From Factory Farms

Food & Water Watch says that the case of Michigan Farm Bureau v. Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) ruling “wipes out” two landmark environmental laws that protect the state’s natural resources.

The dispute is about the Clean Water Act permit for CAFOs that confine thousands of animals in a small space. Food & Water Watch says that “A single large CAFO annually produces one and a half times more untreated waste than the human sanitary waste produced by the cities of Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City, and Warren combined. When not properly regulated, CAFOs cause pollution by inundating Michigan’s waters with excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pharmaceuticals, E. coli, and other pathogens.”

While there has not been contamination of any Michigan agricultural products by runoff from CAFOs, irrigation water that can be contaminated with agricultural runoff was fingered as a culprit in some E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona and California.

In Michigan, the appellate court ruling says that EGLE permits can’t contain new measures that weren’t listed in the original rules. A new rule must be created. But EGLE does not have the authority to issue new rules, so the court decision freezes the agency’s CAFO permit from 2005 in place. Back then, the number of these huge farms was smaller and science linking CAFOs with water pollution was not well understood.

Tyler Lobdell, staff attorney for Food & Water Watch said in a statement, “The Michigan Farm Bureau has long shown contempt for reasonable regulation of factory farms’ pervasive water pollution. This latest effort to undermine effective pollution oversight and upend environmental protection throughout the state is the latest chapter in that story. The Supreme Court must uphold EGLE’s ability to follow the science and protect Michigan waters from this dangerous industry.”

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