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Fischer, Colleagues Lead Letter Urging EPA to Withdraw Concerning Wastewater Rule on Meat and Poultry Processors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) led a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan urging the agency to withdraw a proposed rule covering wastewater discharged by meat and poultry processors. Nine of their Senate Republican colleagues and 17 of their House Republican colleagues also joined the letter.

“Given the technical complexity and high costs of wastewater treatment alterations, coupled with the massive expansion of the number of regulated facilities, a 60-day comment period demonstrates EPA is not interested in seeking meaningful input from the regulated industry. As such, we urge EPA to withdraw the rule,” wrote the Members.

In their letter, the Members called on Administrator Regan to earnestly work with stakeholders in any future rulemaking, ensuring that the EPA’s actions do not compromise the U.S. food system.

“The proposed rule exposes hundreds of operators to a new regulatory regime with significant costs and a disregard of the ramifications on stakeholders … We are concerned the number of potential closures is likely much higher than estimated, and we believe it is irresponsible for EPA to propose regulations that will arbitrarily close plants and eliminate jobs from the rural economy,” the Members continued.

In addition to Senators Fischer and Ernst, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). 

In the House, the letter was led by U.S. Representative Tracey Mann (R-Kan.). In addition to Representative Mann, the letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R- Pa.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), James Baird (R-Ind.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Brad Finstad (R-Minn.), Mike Flood (R-Neb.), and Mark Alford (R-Mo.). 

Stakeholder Support: American Association of Meat Processors, North American Renderers Association, and North American Meat Institute.

Background:

On January 24, 2024, the EPA published its proposed rule on the Meat and Poultry Products (MPP) category wastewater discharge regulations and standards. The rule included three regulatory options that the EPA estimates will impact between 844 and 1,618 facilities.

The proposed rule only provides a 60-day comment period and will close on March 25, 2024. The EPA recently announced to stakeholders that it will not be extending the comment period.

The Members’ letter calls on EPA to withdraw the proposed rule. It claims that a 60-day comment period does not allow time for meaningful feedback on the three proposals and expanding regulations on meat, poultry, and rendering facilities.

Read the full letter here or below.

The Honorable Michael S. Regan
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Regan:

On January 23, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register — “Clean Water Act Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Meat and Poultry Products Point Source Category.” Given the technical complexity and high costs of wastewater treatment alterations, coupled with the massive expansion of the number of regulated facilities, a 60-day comment period demonstrates EPA is not interested in seeking meaningful input from the regulated industry. As such, we urge EPA to withdraw the rule.  

This proposed rule revises the Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELGs) for Meat and Poultry Products (MPP), covering wastewater discharged by meat processors, poultry processors, further processors, and renderers, pursuant to the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Last amended in 2004, the MPP ELGs currently apply to about 180 of the estimated 5,300 MPP facilities nationwide. In the proposed rule, three regulatory options are presented, which EPA estimates will impact between 844 and 1,618 facilities, meaning an increase of nearly 900 percent.

Further, the proposed rule is out of alignment with federal initiatives to expand small- and medium-sized independent processing facilities. The proposed rule exposes hundreds of operators to a new regulatory regime with significant costs and a disregard of the ramifications on stakeholders. In fact, EPA estimates the potential closure of 16 facilities under Preferred Option 1, 22 facilities under Option 2, and 53 facilities under Option 3. We are concerned the number of potential closures is likely much higher than estimated, and we believe it is irresponsible for EPA to propose regulations that will arbitrarily close plants and eliminate jobs from the rural economy.

This costly and technically complex proposed rule would apply to hundreds of meat, poultry, and rendering facilities — many of which are already regulated by the CWA’s NPDES permitting program. As Members of Congress representing districts with meat, poultry, and rendering facilities and as Members of Congress who recognize these facilities’ essential role within our communities and the larger food supply chain, we urge EPA to withdraw this shortsighted proposal. Further, we demand that the EPA fulfill its duty to earnestly work with the regulated community in any future rulemaking, ensuring that any actions do not compromise our food system.

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