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Federal regulators reviewing Arkansas farms' permits process

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Staff Writer | March 21, 2019
Federal environmental regulators are reviewing an Arkansas Senate bill that would change how hog farms and other farms are permitted.
Arkansas farms
America   They are concerned that it might have implications for the Clean Water Act
They are concerned that it might have implications for the Clean Water Act and the state's implementation of that act, Emily Walkenhorst writes for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Administrator Anne Idsal wrote a letter to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh, dated Wednesday, stating that an initial review of the bill showed that it "merits further evaluation to determine its effect" on federal rules and enforcement.

Senate Bill 550, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, would transfer "concentrated animal feeding operation" permitting authority from the state Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

The commission would decide whether to permit farms' liquid waste management systems and would issue permits approved by local conservation districts for liquid waste disposal. The commission also could overturn the disapproval of a disposal permit or a disapproval of part of one.

Currently, the commission reviews liquid waste disposal plans, formally called "nutrient management plans," and determines whether they meet the commission's standards. The plans are then submitted as part of farms' operating permit applications to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Stubblefield and the Arkansas Farm Bureau, which initiated the bill, said Wednesday that they did not believe the review would find that the bill would violate federal laws.

"The proposed law only pertains to state regulations not federal law, therefore EPA should say this is a state matter," Stubblefield wrote in an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Read the whole story here.