BALTIMORE, MD (January 23, 2009) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) received two legal challenges from different parties regarding the proposed new general permit for discharges from animal feeding operations (AFOs). One challenge is from an environmental organization; the other is from a farmer. Opportunities to challenge the permit ended on January 20, 2009. In tandem with federal regulations that went into effect on January 12, 2009, Maryland would for the first time require state discharge permits for large poultry operations and ensure that the largest poultry producers implement controls necessary to properly manage poultry litter and minimize nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed permit and regulations would bring over 50 percent of the state’s poultry litter under MDE regulation.
The challenges will now be forwarded to the Office of Administrative Hearings. The following is a statement from MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson:
Ten years after first proposing to control run-off from chicken litter, Maryland, for the first time, was poised to have a requirement to regulate half of the waste from the state’s largest poultry operations in place.
This permit, which would have been final on January 21, 2009, is now on hold due to a legal challenge. The challenges, one contending that the permit is not strong enough, the other contending it goes too far, illustrate the various views on this regulatory proposal. The Department’s job is to put in place legally sufficient requirements that in its professional judgment, will reduce runoff from this source in as efficient a manner as possible. The final permit and regulations do this.
This new permit and regulations to control nutrients from our largest agricultural animal operations is a significant step forward in protecting the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and our drinking water. It is one part of a comprehensive, State-wide effort targeting all sources of nutrient pollution to the Bay: stormwater runoff, wastewater treatment plants, septic systems, and air emissions.
“We encourage all livestock and poultry farmers who fall under the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit to move forward and plan to submit the required documents by the Feb. 27 deadline. The Maryland Animal Feeding Operation (MAFO) process has been delayed by contested cases. Farmers who believe they fall under this proposed permit should continue to learn what is required so that they are ready to submit the required documents when necessary. If livestock farmers have any uncertainty as to whether they fall under these permits, they should visit MDE's website to learn as much as possible about the permits and call MDE for clarifications. We want to make sure that no one finds themselves out of compliance or penalized,” said Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson.
Although the state permit cannot become effective until the contested case process is completed, permit application requirements continue for medium and large animal feeding operations who discharge to surface waters of the state, or propose to discharge, and who therefore have a duty to apply under federal rules as a CAFO. The federal deadline for such CAFOs to submit a permit application, and a comprehensive nutrient management plan (or equivalent) continues to be February 27, 2009, under federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations that are incorporated by reference in Maryland’s final regulations for animal feeding operations. For information on obtaining a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) contact USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service at 443-482-2962. EPA does not yet have a final updated application form available for CAFOs, but MDE will provide a form on our website by January 30, 2009.
When the legal challenges to the state MAFO permit are resolved, farm operators who fall under the permit will have 90 days to submit their permit application. For now, they should make sure their nutrient management plans are up to date and check on the status of their soil conservation and water quality plan so that they are prepared to submit the information required and are ready to fully comply with all the permit conditions when the contested case process is concluded and the permit is issued.
The permit language and requirements of the permits are available online at mde.maryland.gov or by calling Ed Stone or Patsy Allen at 410-537- 3599 or 1-800-633-6101 ext. 3599.