May 22, 2012
An end to unfair fee exemption for “CAFOs” (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)
Today the Illinois Senate passed the Clean Water Funding Fairness Act (HB 5642), ending the livestock industry’s unique exemption from paying fees for their Clean Water Act permits. We are grateful to Representative Tryon (Crystal Lake) and Senator Frerichs (Champaign), who became the bill’s sponsors after being asked to do so by Illinois’ environmental community.
In 2010, Prairie Rivers Network discovered that factory farms were exempt from paying fees for water pollution permits. All other industrial polluters must pay an annual fee for their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Those fees cover the costs of the state’s regulatory program. In the absence of a fee, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was funding their factory farm regulatory program with fees from the other permittees.
This funding shortfall may have been one of the reasons why the U.S. EPA determined in 2010 that Illinois’ regulatory program for factory farms is inadequate. This determination gave merit to claims made by Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water in their 2008 petition to U.S. EPA. The petition claimed Illinois EPA was failing to issue permits or adequately respond to complaints about factory farm pollution, and did not have a complete inventory of the state’s over 20,000 livestock operations.
Prairie Rivers Network, Environment Illinois, and Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water drafted and supported a bill to create a permit fee for factory farms during the 2011 legislative session. After initial resistance from the Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Pork Producers Association, all interested parties agreed to this year’s bill.
Among those who lobbied in support of the bill were many rural residents who live near factory farms. These residents live with the air and water pollution that comes from large-scale livestock operations confining thousands of animals on small acreages. Residents who pay such a personal cost strongly agree that factory farms should be subject to greater accountability.
“Permits are beneficial because they prevent pollution and create greater accountability. As a farmer and a Farm Bureau member, I was so glad to see agreement on this bill,” said Cindy Bonnet, who once raised livestock in Jo Daviess County and is a member of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water.