EPA asks groups to return CAFO info

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking three environmental groups to return the information on livestock confinement operations provided to them earlier this year. 

The EPA gave out details on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to the groups in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  However, in a statement provided to Brownfield on Tuesday, EPA says that because of privacy concerns raised by the ag community, it is now asking the environmental groups to return the original information.   

The agency says that information for ten of the 29 states that were part of the release contained some personal data, including individual names, email addresses, phone numbers, personal addresses and facility names.  EPA has now determined that the personal information should not have been disclosed under the FOIA request.  

EPA says it has redacted the personal information and will provide the organizations with a new set of data.  The groups receiving the information are the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice and the Pew Charitable Trust.

Here is the EPA statement provided to Brownfield:

EPA’s commitment to working with all stakeholders – the agricultural and environmental communities and our state partners – to ensure clean water and public health protections with regard to the operation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and animal feeding operations (AFOs) requires openness and transparency.  After a recent release by EPA of CAFO- and AFO-related information under a Freedom of Information Act request, the agricultural community raised a number of privacy concerns.  In response, EPA determined that some personal information that could have been protected under FOIA was released. EPA has now redacted that information and asked the FOIA requesters to return the original information. 


In July 2012, EPA withdrew a proposed rule that would have required CAFOs to submit information to EPA. The Agency indicated it would use existing federal, state and local sources of information instead of a regulation to gather data about CAFOs. Through a collaborative effort since July 2012, states have voluntarily shared with EPA basic information about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and animal feeding operations (AFO). This information is production area location, permit status, the number and type of animals, and the number of acres available for land application of manure, litter and wastewater.  This information helps EPA and the states work in partnership to protect water quality and public health under the Clean Water Act. 

Under Freedom of Information Act requests, EPA provided the CAFO and AFO data for 29 states to the Natural Resource Defense Council, The Pew Charitable Trust, and EarthJustice. The majority of the data was already publicly available through state databases, web sites and federal and state permits, or is required to be released under federal or state law. However, in response to privacy concerns raised by agricultural groups, EPA redacted portions of information from 10 of the 29 states that contained some personal data, including individual names, email addresses, phone numbers, personal addresses and facility names that EPA determined was not necessary to disclose under the FOIA request. EPA is providing the organizations with this new version of the data and requesting they return the original data.

  • Considering these groups lean toward automatic condemnation of animal users anyway, does the EPA really think they’ll give back the info without making a copy of it? How stupid are federal agencies anyway? Pretty darn so, it seems. Someone needs to lose their job over this–and in fact, maybe more than one someone. It’s time the federal agencies understood that they work for the taxpayer, not special interest non-taxpaying groups!

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