Proposed Federal Legislation Would Reverse Recent Court Rulings
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
By Ashley Ellixson
On July 8, the “Farm Regulatory Certainty Act” (H.R. 5685) was introduced in the House. To understand this bill fully, it is important to understand why it came about in the first place.
As a refresher, or if you are new to the blog, on May 11, 2015, George DeRuyter & Son Dairy, LLC; Henry Bosma Dairy; and Cow Palace Dairy, LLC entered into consent agreements with a number of environmental groups to continue operating as long as certain conditions are met. These agreements are a result of a Federal district court decision in Washington state finding that manure from dairy farms could be considered “solid waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in certain situations.
This finding could affect farms throughout the entire United States; because RCRA is a Federal act, it could impact decisions interpreting RCRA as it applies to agriculture in general. The Act covers the disposal of solid and hazardous waste in environmentally sound methods. In short, several Washington dairies were found in violation of RCRA because they were not disposing of manure (called a solid waste by the court) in alignment with the Act.
The consent agreements grant the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the responsibility for overseeing implementing the conditions and enforcing the terms. Further, EPA can inspect the dairies at any time with reasonable notice and during reasonably convenient times.
To read more about the Cow Palace case and RCRA in detail, click here for other blog posts.
So, back to the bill! The bill would essentially make RCRA inapplicable “to govern animal waste, manure, or fertilizer, or constituents derived from such sources, or the ways in which they are managed, stored, handled, or applied by agricultural operations.” The bill states that it was not Congress’ intent for RCRA to govern these types of sources. The bill goes on to amend RCRA to rule out animal waste and the like from its regulation. Excluded from the definition of “solid waste,” for example, is the following:
Section 1004(27) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6903(27)) is amended by inserting “, or animal waste, manure, or fertilizer, or constituents derived from animal waste, manure, or fertilizer” after “Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (68 Stat. 923).”
As updates unfold regarding where the bill goes and if it will pass, I will keep you updated so keep checking the blog. The proposed “Farm Regulatory Certainty Act” could create big waves regarding environmental regulation affecting agriculture. This bill will be watched closely. To read the full text of the bill, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5685/text