N.C. Delays New Swine Industry Water Regs

A one-year delay is needed before North Carolina’s new water quality requirements for large hog farms can take effect, budget writers say. ( Jo Windmann )

North Carolina’s new water quality requirements for large hog farms will not take effect this year as intended under the state Senate’s proposed budget plan. 

Every five years, the state Department of Environmental Quality revised permit requirements for hog farms with more than 250 animals that use pits and spray fields to dispose of hog waste. These changes were set to begin Oct. 1, 2019, and have been delayed one year. 

Senate budget writers say the delay is needed because of the extensive changes they would make in governing a major industry.  

The budget provision calls for studying the permit process, and whether the permits should take the track used to make new state rules, which involves approval by the Rules Review Commission, reports the NC News & Observer.

It’s appropriate to do a “thoughtful review” of the regulations and see if they meet the Administrative Procedure Act, said Sen. Andy Wells, a Catawba County Republican and one of the leaders of the Senate agriculture, natural and economic resources budget subcommittee. “This is an opportunity to do that,” he said.

The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held hearings, gathered public input and published a set of draft regulations before releasing the final versions in April. The agency also issued revised permit guidelines for cattle and poultry farms. 

The hog permit changes have brought additional attention because of federal nuisance lawsuits that North Carolina residents have brought against Smithfield subsidiary, Murphy-Brown. 

The North Carolina Farm Bureau appealed the new permit guidelines in state administrative court in May. The legal complaint said the swine permit violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it incorporated terms that were part of DEQ’s settlement with the N.C. Environmental Justice Network, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Erin Carey of the NC Sierra Club said the delay would postpone needed groundwater monitoring and interfere with an ongoing lawsuit. Other environmentalists say the changes don’t go far enough. 

 

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