Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) Final Rulemaking, Frequently Asked Questions
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) Final Rulemaking
EPA has finalized a rule to help protect the nation's water quality by requiring concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to safely manage manure. The final rule responds to a February 2005 federal court decision that upheld most of the agency's 2003 rule, but directed further action or clarification on some portions.
The rule adds new requirements relating to nutrient management plans (NMPs) for permitted CAFOs. The rule also includes a no-discharge certification for CAFOs that can establish that they will not discharge. Additionally, the rule revises the requirement for all CAFOs to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and instead requires only those CAFOs that discharge, or propose to discharge, to apply for permits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there still a requirement for CAFOs to seek permit coverage?
A: Yes. Under the final rule, CAFOs that discharge or propose to discharge have a duty to apply for NPDES permits, the same as other categories of dischargers.
Q: What is the benefit to the CAFO owner/operator of having an NPDES permit?
A: Because the Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits discharges from unpermitted CAFOs, NPDES permit coverage provides certainty to CAFO operators regarding activities and actions that are necessary to comply with the CWA. Compliance with the permit may act as a shield against EPA or state CWA enforcement or citizen lawsuits. Furthermore, NPDES permits allow for discharge when precipitation causes an overflow from a structure that is designed, constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with the permit. Finally, upset provisions can protect permittees when emergencies or natural disasters cause discharges beyond their reasonable control.
Q: Why should an unpermitted CAFO certify if it is not going to discharge?
A: In the event of a discharge from a properly certified CAFO, the CAFO will not be liable for prior failure to seek permit coverage. The CAFO, however, remains liable for discharging without an NPDES permit.
Q: With respect to land application, what are the two approaches in the final rule for expressing rates of application?
A: The final rule provides two approaches a CAFO may use in its NMP to identify annual maximum rates of application of manure, litter, and process wastewater by field and crop for each year of permit coverage:
- The “linear approach” expresses field-specific maximum rates of application in terms of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus from manure, litter, and process wastewater allowed to be applied.
- The “narrative rate approach” allows application rates to be determined based on the total amount of nutrients combined with a specific, quantitative method for calculating the amount of manure, litter, process wastewater allowed to be land applied.
Q: What constitutes a substantial change to the NMP and requires a permit modification?
A: The final rule includes a list of changes to the NMP that constitute a substantial change to the terms of a CAFOs NMP. Examples of such substantial changes include the addition of new land application areas not previously included in the CAFOs NMP and addition of any crop not included in the terms of the CAFOs NMP and corresponding field-specific rates of application.
Q: If a CAFO already has coverage under a permit, will the operator need to submit a new application by 2/27/09?
A: No. EPA recognizes that approximately 9,000 CAFOs already have NPDES permit coverage. These CAFOs must comply with the conditions of their existing permits as long as those permits remain in effect. Upon expiration of existing individual or general permits, EPA expects permitting authorities to issue new individual or general permits that will then need to reflect the requirements of this rule. Permitting authorities may request NMPs at any time based on the 2003 rule, and newly permitted CAFOs will need to submit an NMP when seeking permit coverage.
Q: What are the compliance deadlines for recently defined CAFOs?
A: The compliance deadline to apply for NPDES permits for operations that were recently defined as CAFOs by the 2003 rule is February 27, 2009.
Federal and State CAFO Contacts
EPA Region 7 CAFO coordinator
Donna Porter, firstname.lastname@example.org, (913) 551-7929, (800) 223-0425.
State CAFO contacts:
Gene Tinker, email@example.com, (515) 281-3103
Terry Medley, firstname.lastname@example.org, (785) 296-0075
Darrick Steen, email@example.com, (573) 751-1403
Dennis Heitmann, firstname.lastname@example.org, (402) 471-4288