Legislation Would Stop Extremist Agendas From Derailing Superfund Law

Senate bill prevents ranchers from being regulated as toxic waste dumps by stating that Superfund Law was never intended to impose liability on ranchers and farmers for cow manure.

Published on: Nov 3, 2011

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have introduced the "Superfund Common-Sense Act of 2011" (S. 1729), which would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the courts from imposing what the policymakers call another "needless and burdensome" regulation on U.S. Agriculture.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon says the legislation would restore the original intent of the U.S. Congress under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known by the shorter and more recognizable name, "Superfund Law," and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Lyon says the Superfund Law was originally passed by Congress 31 years ago in 1980 to prevent toxic waste from polluting U.S. waters, and she notes it never was intended to elevate extreme agendas by imposing liability on U.S. farmers and ranchers in the same fashion as toxic waste polluters. The Senate Bill 1729 would exempt cattle manure from regulations under these laws.

LEGISLATION HELPS. Bills introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House would exempt cattle manure from regulations of the Superfund Law.
LEGISLATION HELPS. Bills introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House would exempt cattle manure from regulations of the Superfund Law.

"Congress never intended manure to fall under the jurisdiction of CERCLA. However, some activists groups and attorneys in Texas and Oklahoma have worked to increase the law's reach by attempting to convince courts that livestock producers should be subject to CERCLA liability," says Lyon. "Subjecting farmers and ranchers to CERCLA liability could place the financial burden of nutrient reduction for an entire watershed on a single producer. This kind of liability could easily reach into the many millions of dollars, and bankrupt family farmers and ranchers."

The Senate legislation is identical to a bill introduced earlier in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Billy Long (R-Mo.). Lyon says both bills would amend CERCLA to provide that naturally occurring, organic manure and its nutrient components are not considered a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. NCBA strongly supports the legislation.