WASHINGTON — On July 19, a letter signed by 218 organizations and addressed to Michael Regan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, urged him to act on EPA’s existing authority over Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms.

The granted authority falls under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); although, a rule made during the Trump administration exempted CAFOs from the EPCRA. The EPA is expected to propose a repeal of that rule in December, according to the Friends of Earth.

The letter commends the EPA’s stated values found in its 2022-2026 Strategic Plan to “follow the science, follow the law, and be transparent” as well as “a fourth foundational principle: advance justice and equity.”

“We commend these commitments but contend that the EPA is failing to uphold them by abdicating its responsibility to protect rural communities living near CAFOs,” the letter said.

The petitioning groups said waste and pollutants from growing CAFOs is interfering with the quality of life for nearby communities and “has gone unaddressed by — and has even been exacerbated by — EPA for decades.”

“After decades of fighting against factory farms without federal government support, rural communities continue to be affected by harmful operations that degrade their health, natural resources and quality of life,” said Adriane Busby, senior food and climate policy analyst at Friends of the Earth. “If EPA is serious about protecting communities from environmental racism and mitigating climate change, the agency must take meaningful and immediate action to rein in the harms from CAFOs.” 

Coinciding with the letter was a hearing held the same day in the US House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, focusing on regenerative agriculture.