United Egg Producers (UEP)
Various State water officials and environmental groups, U.S. EPA and others are participating in an XL Project with the United Egg Producers (UEP), to develop a comprehensive program to help participating facilities achieve "superior environmental performance" by implementing an environmental management system (EMS) through a general permit issued by individual States or EPA. This innovative program, which will also include a 3rd party auditing component, will also utilize those common procedures and on-farm management practices most likely to result in superior environmental performance. Working groups led by UEP will work through the summer months to draft program guidance and a Final Project Agreement (FPA). These documents will define in detail how the program will work and can be used by States and EPA to oversee participating facilities as they manage their operations more effectively. EPA, working with UEP, States, and others, will develop a model general permit that States can choose to adopt where they are the permitting authority. EPA will use the general permit and the EMS program requirements in States where it continues to administer the program.
The UEP XL Project is a progressive concept which offers environmental and resource benefits to States, EPA, the public, and egg producers. Under current law, the dry manure storage and handling procedures of most very large poultry operations are generally not covered under existing Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations or NPDES permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). However, several State actions and newly proposed EPA guidance to States for CAFO regulation have alerted the poultry industry to upcoming rulemaking that would require most egg producing operations to obtain individual NPDES permits. The XL project proposed by UEP uses a less costly and less complex mechanism -- a general permit and an EMS-based program-tailored to the needs of the egg-laying industry as an incentive for the industry's large producers to maintain superior facilities and practices.
Because of significant concentration in the egg production industry in the last decade, 318 companies (down from approximately 10,000 a decade ago) now produce 96% of the nation's 65 billion eggs annually. Most UEP members are much larger than the 100,000 bird threshold for regulation as CAFOs. In fact, 58 operations raise more than a million birds each. However, under current permitting procedures and CWA regulations, few operations have been required to comply with federal NPDES permits (although a majority operate under State and/or local permits and requirements). Those that do have individual NPDES permits (generally for handling and land application of egg wash water) are concerned about high costs, resource constraints, and other requirements that often handicap cost-effective operations. Faced with the prospect that many operations will likely be required to obtain individual permits, UEP members will agree to coverage under a general permit that can in turn help participating facilities achieve superior environmental performance. EPA supports coverage under general permits because it will bring egg-producing facilities under permits faster and help assure continuing compliance and superior environmental performance through the implementation of EMSs.