DEC lacks legal authority to roll-back environmental regulations; plan does not balance costs to environment, smaller dairy farms, or communities
A coalition of environmental groups expressed their disapproval of Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement yesterday that the state will roll-back environmental regulations, which for years have protected the state's waterways from the polluting effects of industrial-sized dairy operations, based on the claim that it would increase yogurt production in New York:
"Our organizations have a shared goal of protecting and promoting dairy farming in New York. We are proud that New York has grown to be the largest yogurt producer in the United States, and it has done so with proper environmental protections in place for our waters. However, by gutting the law that ensures that medium size dairy CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are run in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner, more than three million pounds of cow manure produced each day in New York are at risk of being improperly handled, resulting in contamination of adjacent waters that can expose local communities to disease-causing bacteria and threaten fish habitat.
Just last year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) asserted in a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a non-regulatory approach to medium-sized CAFOs, which the state has just announced it intends to pursue, is neither credible nor effective' to protect the health and environment of New Yorkers.
By rushing this regulatory revision through the approval process, New York has denied the public the opportunity to help the the state find a way to support dairy operators in complying with the law that insures clean water for all New Yorkers. In addition, DEC has ignored the federal government's responsibility to review the state's regulatory change prior to implementation, calling into serious question the legal validity of the new regulations. Finally, DEC has not adequately examined all impacts the deregulation will have, nor fully considered alternative strategies that could provide both an economic and environmental benefit to the state and its dairy farmers.
In pursuing these rollbacks, Governor Cuomo is ignoring the true problem-the need for critical investments to operate industrial-sized dairy operations safely. Our coalition will continue to pursue a solution that would promote dairy farming in New York without putting the health and environment of New Yorkers in jeopardy, and are prepared to take legal action to protect the waters that all New Yorkers use for fishing, swimming, drinking and farming."