Washington, DC — The Bush administration has pushed deadlines for new court-ordered water pollution rules back from this July to February 2009. This action evidences an emerging trend in the waning months of the Bush second term of putting off addressing knotty environmental problems until the next administration takes office, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
On May 4, 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that new rules to tighten water quality standards for factory farms, otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), would be delayed from July 31, 2007 until February 27, 2009, approximately one month after the next U.S. President is sworn in. This is the second postponement of the “compliance date” for this new rule. Last year, EPA extended the original April 13, 2006 deadline to July 31, 2007.
The new rules are the result a court order won by environmental groups challenging the first attempt of the Bush administration to promulgate CAFO rules that were so weak they violated minimal Clean Water Act standards. In 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit directed that the 2002 Bush rules, heavily influenced by agriculture industry lobbyists, be tightened to ensure that water quality is protected from seepage or blowouts of massive lagoons holding tons of cattle, swine or poultry wastes.
The stated reason for this second delay is to allow “EPA to respond adequately to an array of public comments on issues raised in the court decision. The extensions will also provide time for the agricultural community to adjust to the new requirements once they are finalized,” according to the agency release.
The new compliance date, however, is more than a decade after EPA first initiated its CAFO pollution strategy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that all CAFOs had plans for properly managing manure, the central weakness cited by the Court in the 2002 rules. In addition, the new date is more than eight years after EPA first proposed CAFO pollution control rules.
“What a lovely parting gift for the next administration,” exclaimed PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA staff members working on the proposed new rules are unaware of any new complications that would have justified further delays. “Manure control is hard work but it is not rocket science.”
Earlier this week, President Bush announced that he would develop a policy for addressing automobile-produced emissions contributing to global warming but leave implementation of that future plan to the next White House.
“We have now reached the point where the Bush administration is fast running out of political capital and must carefully pick where they will spend rapidly diminishing clout,” Ruch added. “Unlike the past two administrations, there will be no attempt to cement a positive environmental legacy of any sort.”