“The public’s interest in clean water sources, and thus transparency related to identified pollution sources, is certain.” — U.S. Federal Judge Ann D. Montgomery
Minneapolis, MN — A federal judge dismissed a challenge brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council against the Environmental Protection Agency in Minneapolis late yesterday. The industry groups were seeking to block the federal agency’s ability to release public information regarding highly polluting factory farms to citizens concerned about clean water. Food & Water Watch (FWW), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) and The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), represented by lawyers at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), had intervened in the case on behalf of citizens who have a right to protect their communities and their environment from polluting factory farms and to safeguard open government.
The Farm Bureau filed their case after EPA released documents relating to the location, size and ownership of thousands of industrial factory farms to environmental advocacy groups pursuant to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act back in 2013. Both EPA and several states have recognized these facilities as significant sources of pollution to many of our streams, rivers and bays across the country, yet they remain largely unregulated and relatively hidden from the members of communities in the vicinity of the operations.
“Many of our public waterways suffer from nutrient impairment and factory farms are some of the biggest nutrient polluters in the country,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Instead of looking for ways to avoid responsibility by filing these kinds of law suits, maybe Farm Bureau and other industry front groups should be looking for ways to clean up these facilities and make the big meat companies control their pollution.”
The court decision underscores the fact that citizens have a right to know where factory farms are located and whether or not those operations are being responsible stewards of the land and waterways. It also demonstrates that the EPA has the obligation to share this data with the public upon request.
“Iowa is overrun with these factory farms and neither EPA nor the state is doing anything to stop them from polluting; it’s left to citizens to use their right under the Clean Water Act to protect their waterways,” said ICCI Executive Director Hugh Espey. “Thankfully, industry’s effort to block citizens from the information we need to try and clean up our rivers and lakes has failed.”
“We’re grateful that the judge saw through industry’s improper attempt to keep their polluting ways in the dark,” stated Jeffery Gulley, Food and Public Health Counsel for Government Accountability Project. “Hopefully this ruling will enable the public to hold this industry accountable for the damage it continues to inflict on waterways and communities in almost every state in the country.”
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement – Hugh Espey, 515-282-0484, [email protected]
Government Accountability Project – Jeffrey Gulley, 706-254-5997, [email protected]