Bard Center for Environmental Policy and Pace Law School dual degree student Meaghan Colligan is one of four representatives for a coalition of environmental groups that is suing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of Albany over a new dairy farm rule meant to increase milk production for the state's growing greek yogurt industry. The groups contend that by lifting restrictions on the size of industrial diary farms, manure pollution runoff will increase in the state's waterways, violating the Clean Water Act. Meaghan Colligan is one of two representatives from the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic that is representing the coalition.
For more details, see coverage by The Wall Street Journal, WAMC, Huffington Post, or read the article reposted from Law 360 below:
Enviros Sue NY Over Relaxed Dairy Farm Water Rules
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Law360, New York (July 29, 2013, 2:13 PM ET) -- A coalition of environmental groups on Friday sued the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, alleging its deregulation of some industrial dairy farms, intended to increase the state's yogurt production, will lead to the contamination of nearby waters.
In May, the state raised the cap, from 200 to 299, on the number of cows dairy farms can have in their herds while remaining exempt from wastewater control requirements. The coalition - which includes Waterkeeper Alliance, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Theodore Gordon Flyfishers - says allowing the designated dairy farms to operate without a permit violates both federal and state law and could result in untreated cow manure running off into nearby waters
"NYSDEC expects 285 farms to grow into the exempted size category in addition to the 72 that already exist, which would produce over three million pounds of additional wet manure each day and greatly increase the risk that such additional manure will be improperly managed, stored and land applied," the coalition said in its complaint.
The groups' lawsuit raises a number of claims against the state's action, including that the department exceeded its regulatory authority by creating a loophole for industrial dairies in the state's Water Pollution Control Law, "undermining the legislature's intent to prevent discharges of pollutants into state waters."
It also alleged the DEC did not adequately examine all adverse environmental impacts the deregulation will have, nor fully consider alternative strategies that could provide both an economic and environmental benefit to the state and its dairy farmers.
And it said the DEC failed to obtain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval as required prior to revising Clean Water Act permitting standards, and violated the Clean Water Act and state law by making its concentrated animal feeding operations permit program less stringent than the minimum federal requirements.
"Factory farms are one of the greatest sources of water pollution in the country," Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, said in a statement. "Deregulating an already dirty business in other states has destroyed water quality and done nothing more than put money in the hands of a few corporations at the expense of the public. It is a shame that New York would want to follow that terrible precedent, rather than support family farms with the resources they need to operate in a way that protects the water quality we've fought so hard to maintain."
The groups said in a joint statement that they filed formal comments in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed rulemaking in January 2013, stating that DEC had not adequately reviewed the human health, environmental and economic impacts such an action would have on state and local communities, which it must do prior to taking such an action.
Cuomo said earlier this year that eliminating the permitting regulation allows farmers to "reinvest their resources to expand operations allowing the state to grow its milk production for the yogurt industry."
"An independent team of experts in agricultural waste management also reviewed the proposed rule changes at the request of the groups and concluded that without clean water protections, 'human health risks are substantial.' In addition, these experts concluded that the proposed rule changes 'would likely result in increased environmental degradation of water, soil and air quality,'" the groups said.
DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said Monday the department had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
"The revised CAFO regulations will continue to ensure that water quality is protected while reducing a regulatory burden on relatively small dairy farms," he said about the rule change.
The coalition is represented by Daniel E. Estrin and Meaghan A. Colligan of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic Inc., by Eve C. Gartner of Earthjustice and by Michael P. Dulong and Nicole C. Sasaki of Riverkeeper Inc.
The case is Riverkeeper Inc. et al. v. Joe Martens, number 4166-2013 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of Albany.
--Additional reporting by Pete Brush. Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.
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This event was last updated on 08-05-2013