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July 21, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt

A Missed Opportunity for the Bay TMDL: Maryland’s 2020 General Permit for Livestock Farms

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently issued a general discharge permit that covers pollution from most livestock farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), across the state through July 2025. Unfortunately, the permit, which went into effect on July 8th, will likely jeopardize the 2025 nitrogen reduction goals under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) and does not align with Maryland’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) commitments.

Roughly 95 percent of Maryland’s animal farms are located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so it is important that they are adequately regulated under the general permit – both so that local water quality can be protected and so the state can meet its pollution reduction goals under the Bay TMDL.

Circumstances under which Animal Feeding Operations Require Permit Coverage

These types of general permits serve two primary purposes: (1) they satisfy the requirement of the Clean Water Act that certain types of polluters obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and (2) they allow state agencies to develop operating conditions with the goal of reducing water pollution for similar types of facilities discharging similar types of pollution within a certain geographic boundary, without having …

May 8, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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In the latest episode of CPR Board President Rob Verchick's Connect the Dots podcast, he and CPR Member Scholars Michael Duff and Thomas McGarity explore worker safety issues in the era of the coronavirus.

McGarity begins the conversation with the story of Annie Grant, a 15-year veteran of the packing line at a Tyson Food poultry processing plant in Camilla, Georgia. One morning in late March, weeks after the nation had awakened to the danger of the coronavirus and states had begun locking down, she felt feverish. When her children urged her to stay home rather than work with a fever on the chilled poultry line, she told them that the company insisted that she continue to work. Furthermore, Tyson was offering a $500 bonus to employees if they worked for three months without missing a day. So, she went in to work, where she labored shoulder-to-shoulder …

May 4, 2020 by Rachel Micah-Jones, Matt Shudtz
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This is an excerpt from an op-ed originally published in the Baltimore Sun. You can read the full op-ed here.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.

All the risks cascade down onto the workers. Many are from immigrant backgrounds and don't speak English. They're also exempted from vital protections, federal relief packages, and can't access COVID-19 treatment and care. We're standing in …

April 30, 2020 by Michael C. Duff
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Update: The president's order has issued. I now have doubt as to whether the Defense Production Act provides immunity to tort actions (if that was the plan) to parties bound by it outside the context of military contractors. See In Re Aircraft Crash Lit. Frederick, Md., 752 F. Supp. 1326, 1330 n.2 (S.D. Ohio 1990); see In Re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation, 597 F. Supp. 740, 843 n.27 (E.D.N.Y. 1984). As we used to say back in my ice hockey days, this could be a donnybrook.


When I was a young whipper-snapper, an airline supervisor once ordered me to put my rain gear on and enter an airplane baggage compartment into which "lavatory fluid" had discharged due to a malfunction. I told him to pound sand. That memory popped into my head when I read that the president was ordering …

April 23, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On Earth Day, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a CPR ally, released a new report on nitrogen pollution from poultry operations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Using data from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s pollution modeling program, EIP found that approximately 24 million pounds of nitrogen pollution from the poultry industry entered the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters in 2018. This amount is greater than the total nitrogen from urban and suburban stormwater runoff in Maryland and Virginia combined (20 million pounds in 2018). All that nitrogen pollution can contaminate drinking water sources of nearby communities and feeds huge algal blooms in the Bay that block sunlight, choking off fish and plant life.

Environmental Integrity Project Report: Poultry Pollution in the Chesapeake Region

Nearly two-thirds of the poultry industry’s nitrogen pollution comes from broiler farms that raise chickens for meat. The Delmarva Peninsula — including Dorchester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties in Maryland (which have 220 registered poultry …

July 31, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the 2013 decision of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that EPA did not exceed its Clean Water Act (CWA) authority in issuing the total maximum daily load (TMDL), or pollution diet, for the Chesapeake Bay.  The ruling affirmed the legality of the nation’s most ambitious TMDL and, more broadly, it also rejected the plaintiffs’ exceedingly narrow view of TMDLs.

As presented in a recent case brief, CPR Member Scholars Emily Hammond, Dave Owen, and Rena Steinzor and I argue that this decision is a good example of how judicial deference can protect important agency efforts to protect the environment.  According to brief co-author Rena Steinzor, “The Third Circuit provided resounding support for ongoing efforts to restore the Chesapeake and for EPA’s authority to work with states to …

Nov. 20, 2013 by Rena Steinzor
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When we all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner next week, we hope that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and that the workers who produce it are safe.  Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ever the mindless booster of corporate profits, that turkey at the center of the table already disappoints both expectations, and if USDA has its way, matters are about to get much worse.  Hiding behind disingenuous promises to “modernize” the food safety system, USDA has decided to pull federal food inspectors off the line at poultry processing plants across the nation.  No new preventative measures to ensure that poultry is free of salmonella would happen.  And already crowded, bloody, stinking lines would speed up dramatically—to as many as 175 birds per minute, or three birds/second. Workers who suffer grave ergonomic injuries from the repetitive motions of …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 21, 2020

A Missed Opportunity for the Bay TMDL: Maryland’s 2020 General Permit for Livestock Farms

May 8, 2020

When 'Essential' Means 'Expendable': Connecting the Dots Between Back-to-Work Orders and Spread of Coronavirus

May 4, 2020

Baltimore Sun Op-ed: More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

April 30, 2020

President Orders Continued Meat Production; And Then There's the 13th Amendment

April 23, 2020

New Report Finds Poultry Industry Contributes 24 Million Pounds of Nitrogen to Chesapeake Bay

July 31, 2015

Farm Bureau Effort to Thwart Bay Cleanup Progress Rejected by Third Circuit

Nov. 20, 2013

What's for Thanksgiving? Hopefully not more crippling pain for poultry workers! Learn more at upcoming webinar