IN 1987, Congress looked at the farms in America and decided they weren't the same as factories. Congress exempted farms from the stormwater discharge rules under the Clean Water Act.
For 16 years, Environmental Protection Agency officials complied with the law.
Then in 2003, Bush administration officials decided that the EPA can ignore Congress and promulgated regulations that resulted in Lois Alt of Hardy County facing fines of up to $37,500 a day — $13 million a year — because the chickens on her farm have feathers and make poop.
This resulted in a court case in which the American Farm Bureau Federation and the West Virginia Farm Bureau sided with Alt.
"EPA has no authority to regulate the emissions of dust and other particles onto land under the CWA," the American Farm Bureau noted.
"Instead, the EPA claims that an unpermitted discharge occurs after the dust from the barns settles on the ground, mixes with stormwater and eventually reaches jurisdictional waters of the United States through man-made ditches."
Not only did EPA officials ignore the law that exempts farms, but EPA lawyers came up with a convoluted method to turn feathers into water pollution.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey put a stop to this nonsense on Wednesday.
"It appears to be a central assumption of the EPA's position that the agricultural stormwater discharge exemption had no meaning whatsoever from the time the exemption was added to the statute in 1987 until the EPA promulgated its new regulations in 2003," Bailey's ruling says.
"This is an assumption that this Court simply cannot accept."
This marks the fourth time a district judge has struck down EPA's overreach in enforcing the law in recent years, the most notable of these being the EPA's illegal revocation of water permits for coal mines issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction in these cases.
If the EPA believes that chicken feathers are water pollution, then administrators need to persuade Congress to change the law.
Until then, EPA officials — not farmers — are violating the law. Perhaps they should pay $37,500 a day.