Judge Grants Indiana Extension on Issuing Federal Water-Pollution Permits
A federal judge gave Indiana an extra four months to begin issuing federal permits to factory-style animal feeding operations that discharge pollutants into waterways.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management now has until May 14 to issue permits to about 550 federally regulated operations, including hog farms.
In a September ruling, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker gave the agency until January 15 to begin issuing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.
State officials asked for more time, saying they needed at least 340 days to develop a general permit under which operators would be required to meet certain requirements but not obtain an individual permit, that would demand greater oversight.
But Barker said an additional 120 days is sufficient, noting the state could issue individual permits as an interim measure until a general permit can be established.
If the state fails to comply, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must act to rescind the state's authority to oversee federal clean-water rules, Barker said.
"We are pleased to see the court has agreed to provide some additional time and flexibility for Indiana to comply with the federal permit requirements," environmental department Commissioner Lori Kaplan said in a written statement.
Attorney Scott Treadway, whose 1999 lawsuit against the agency on behalf of Save the Valley and a Jefferson County couple prompted Barker's ruling, said he was "disappointed they were given more time."
Barker has criticized the state for delaying implementation of the federal permits. The EPA had informed the state for several years that federally regulated feeding operations were prohibited from discharging pollutants into state waterways without a permit.
Because Indiana oversees the water program for the EPA, the state is responsible for issuing the permits.
The state has more than 2,000 confined feeding operations, but only about 550 are large enough to need a permit. The federally regulated facilities generally have more than 2,000 hogs.