Attorneys general say EPA water rule is costly and unlawful

(The Center Square) – A proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that would monitor indirect wastewater discharges from slaughterhouses is unlawful and would be costly to businesses, 27 attorneys general said in a letter to the agencies.

The EPA monitors wastewater discharge from 171 of the 5,055 meat and poultry product facilities in the United States, according to the letter led by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach and Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin. The new rule would affect nearly 3,800 producers, including some family-owned farms in Arkansas, according to Griffin.

Poultry generates the most cash receipts of any other agricultural product in Arkansas, according to information from the Arkansas Farm Bureau. One in four agrarian jobs are in poultry production, according to the Farm Bureau.

“The EPA’s proposed rule would add additional regulations on processing plants with indirect wastewater discharges—discharges that are already treated by a municipal or other wastewater treatment facility, which are themselves subject to EPA regulations,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “That’s an extra layer of regulation that doesn’t accomplish anything. And the EPA lacks the legal authority to impose such regulations.”

The rule is part of a settlement of a North Carolina lawsuit filed against the EPA by several environmental groups of the discharge of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, into the water.

“Under the consent decree, EPA has obligations to sign a notice of proposed rulemaking by December 13, 2023 and to sign a decision taking final action on the proposal by August 31, 2025,” the agency said in its filing.

Some judges have questioned using a settlement as the basis of rulemaking, according to the attorneys general.

“Finally, it appears that EPA is relying primarily on data put together by the groups that were suing them to come up with this rule,” the letter said. “This practice not only puts forward poor policy but also harms the integrity of our judicial system. This administration must stop abusing the legal system in order to achieve results it otherwise cannot get.”

The EPA said in its filing the rule would “improve water quality and protect human health and the environment by reducing the discharge of nutrients and other pollutants to the nation’s surface waters.” The agency met with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute, the North American Renderers Association and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, the agency said.

“The preferred option is estimated to cost $232 million annually and reduce pollutant discharges by approximately 100 million pounds per year,” EPA said.