The Ohio Department of Agriculture has the expertise needed to administer parts of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Legislative Affairs Chris Henney recently told Ohio lawmakers.
After passing in the Senate yesterday, a bill that would help facilitate the transfer of the NPDES program for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and storm water associated with construction activity at animal feeding operations to ODA from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is now awaiting the governor’s signature. Currently, Ohio EPA administers all aspects of the state’s NPDES program. Under the proposed transfer, ODA would administer the parts of the program dealing with CAFOs and storm water associated with construction activity at animal feeding operations; Ohio EPA would be in charge of the rest of the program.
House Bill 363 would make changes to sections of Ohio’s statutes as recommended by U.S. EPA Region 5. HB 363 also has ODA recommendations for state permitting program issues not related to the NPDES transfer. For example, these non-NPDES issues include having more extensive background checks, allowing ODA to charge for re-inspection fees and authorizing ODA to regulate the activities of certified livestock managers.
In 2000 lawmakers passed legislation that allowed ODA to apply for authority to issue NPDES permits to CAFOs. ODA applied for the authority in 2007.
“Because of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s pervasive knowledge of agriculture, members of Ohio’s General Assembly and the administration felt it ultimately made sense to shift responsibility for environmental oversight to CAFOs and animal feeding operations to the Department of Agriculture from Ohio EPA,” Henney testified.
ODA has administered a stringent state permitting program since 2002. The Livestock Environmental Permitting Program exceeds federal standards in many areas and has become a model for other states, Henney testified. Before ODA took over regulatory responsibility for the state permitting program, Ohio EPA issued only permits to install CAFOs, had no permits to operate and had no routine inspection programs, he said. Under ODA, the state requires both a permit to install and a permit to operate and conducts an on-site inspection every six months.
“The Department (of Agriculture) has operated the state permitting program in an effective and knowledgeable manner. That was the main goal of this effort since the beginning. We are confident that the Department of Agriculture can and will operate the NPDES program in a similar manner,” Henney said.