Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Letters to the Editor

August 27, 2013

Hoosier Environmental Council rebuts IDEM objections to hog barn story

Editor’s Note: This letter is a response to a letter to the editor published in the Thursday, Aug. 22 edition of the Daily News.

Dear Assistant Commissioner Palin:

On behalf of the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), I am responding to your correspondence to the editor of the Greensburg Daily News regarding a recent news article.

In your letter, you say that Daily News reporter Rob Cox is not “telling the whole story,” providing “inaccurate information,” and “paint[ing] a distorted picture of the amount of oversight and evaluation that CFOs are subject to by IDEM.” Your contentions are apparently based, in large part, on your disagreement with statements I made which were quoted in the article.

As an initial matter, I’m concerned with the efforts of some senior IDEM officials to continue to try to discredit the Hoosier Environmental Council. This is the second time you have sent a letter to the editor of a newspaper accusing HEC of providing false and misleading information for a story despite the fact that the information provided was objective, verifiable, fact-based and truthful.

Consistent with HEC’s long standing and demonstrated commitment to transparency, professionalism, integrity and accuracy, the statements I made to Mr. Cox are well-supported by the facts.

Accurate Statement: “A lack of citations or enforcement actions for violations by IDEM against a particular CAFO or CFO is not proof that the facility’s operations are environmentally sound or neighbor friendly.”

As you well know, Indiana’s confined feeding law applies only to livestock facilities that meet the regulatory definition of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or Confined Feeding Operation (CFO); that is, IDEM’s regulatory authority, applies only to facilities that confine at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, 30,000 fowl or 500 horses.

Those that confine animals under the regulatory threshold number -- regardless of harm they may cause to the environment and people who live nearby -- are not subject to IDEM regulation at all. This regulatory gap is significant with respect to protection of public health and the environment considering there are 38,600 livestock operations in Indiana, but only 1,966 of those (a mere 5 percent) are subject to IDEM regulation.

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