Environmental groups: NY State’s decision to exempt farms from permit program will weaken clean water protection standards

For Immediate Release

In response to Governor Cuomo’s proposal today to remove permit requirements for medium Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), a coalition of leading environmental groups released the following statement: 

"As organizations committed to protecting and restoring New York’s rivers, lakes and streams, we are very concerned by the announcement today that New York State will weaken state environmental protections put in place to protect public health, safety and the environment by exempting medium sized industrial farms from its CAFO permit program. As a result, these farms will be allowed to grow from 200 to 299 cows without requiring the installation of structural controls such aswaste storage facilities and water diversions essential to protecting the State’s waters from being contaminated with animal waste.

Just this year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reaffirmed the need for mandatory permitting of industrial farms to protect water quality: ‘a non‐regulatory approach, for a sector that has a significant pollution potential (the smallest medium CAFO has the pollution potential of a major sewage treatment plant), is neither credible nor effective.’

Agriculture is a fundamental piece of the state’s vibrant economy and plays a vital role in environmental protection by providing local food sources and conserving open space.  Our groups have a shared goal of protecting and promoting dairy farming in New York.  We believe that alternatives to the proposed regulatory roll-back that will provide both an economic and environmental benefit to the state and its dairy farmers must be considered before throwing away the standards New Yorkers fought for decades to put in place to protect the waters we use for fishing, swimming and drinking.

We look forward to engaging in an open dialogue with New York State through a full environmental review of the governor’s proposal and to developing a solution that supports the dairy industry with the resources they need to protect the clean water on which we all depend.”

Groups joining together in support of the continued protection of New York’s clean water:  Environmental Advocates of New York, Environment New York, Riverkeeper, Inc., Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Waterkeeper Alliance.