Groups Challenge Ammonia Emissions from Industrial Egg Farm
Several North Carolina conservation groups filed legal papers aimed at cleaning up ammonia pollution from a massive industrial chicken operation. The groups filed a motion to intervene with the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission Nov. 23, defending the State of North Carolina’s issuance of a Clean Water Act permit for concentrated animal feeding operator Rose Acre Farms. The permit would allow Rose Acre to continue operating, but would help protect the surrounding waterways and nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge from the ammonia emissions of more than 3 million hens housed at the Rose Acre facility.
The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a 115,000-acre wetlands area, previously described by one court as “home to some of the most unspoiled habitat along the East Coast.” The refuge is located on the Atlantic Flyway, a major route for migratory waterfowl, including tundra swans and snow geese migrating from arctic regions to the wildlife refuge. The refuge is also home to the federally protected red wolf and red cockaded woodpecker.
North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality had earlier found that Rose Acre’s ammonia emissions were polluting the waters bordering the wildlife refuge. Rose Acre’s experts also found that up to 73 tons of ammonia were being deposited each year into the surrounding areas and wildlife refuge. Rose Acre Farms has operated for years under similar permits designed to safeguard the nearby waterways. But rather than continue operating with these protections in place, Rose Acre and the North Carolina Poultry Federation are now challenging North Carolina’s issuance of the permit. Rose Acre is one of the largest concentrated poultry-egg operators in the country. Its North Carolina facility, which houses more than three million hens, is the largest such facility in the state.
"Each year the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge receives thousands of visitors who enjoy the more than 300 wildlife species living in this magnificent and protected habitat," said Jennifer Alligood, president of Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. “The pollution from Rose Acre Farms degrades the water quality for wildlife, diminishing this very special habitat that is enjoyed by local residents and thousands of visitors each year.”
“The water pollution caused by more than 3 million chickens at Rose Acre Farms is unhealthy and damaging to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge,” said Christopher Leung, lead attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing the groups. “As the state has already found, this egg factory needs to control its ammonia emissions.”
North Carolina issued a Clean Water Act permit to Rose Acre that would have required it to take steps to monitor its ammonia emissions from the hen houses’ ventilation system. This system uses large fans to blow ammonia and other pollutants out of the chicken houses, thereby polluting the surrounding areas and wildlife refuge with excessive amounts of ammonia.
“Large amounts of ammonia in lakes and rivers leads to an unbalanced ecosystem,” said Heather Deck, Riverkeeper for the Tar-Pamlico River. “The excessive nutrients create algae blooms that eventually drain the oxygen from the water, suffocating fish and other aquatic life.”
“This has serious public health implications for both the local area and the State of North Carolina,” said local counsel Jerry Eatman, an attorney at Raleigh-based Lynch & Eatman. “Not only has the state’s Division of Water Quality found a large increase of ammonia deposits in nearby waters, but studies commissioned by Rose Acre have calculated that huge amounts of ammonia are being emitted and deposited into the wildlife refuge.”
In 2004, Rose Acre applied for a federal Clean Water Act permit from North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality. The agency granted Rose Acre's request, but due to concerns about its close proximity to the wildlife refuge, also began collecting water samples from the surrounding canals. In 2006, Rose Acre finished construction and began moving birds into the facility. The agency continued its water sampling through December 2008.
In 2009, North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality prepared a report finding that ammonia concentrations in the surrounding waterways had increased significantly, as well as nitrogen, total inorganic nitrogen, total phosphorus and fecal coliform. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also produced a report showing that Rose Acre was releasing large amounts of ammonia into the wildlife refuge and surrounding areas. As a result, when the state renewed Rose Acre’s permit, it included specific provisions to improve monitoring of the facility’s ammonia emissions.
Rather than submit to monitoring of its emissions, Rose Acre then petitioned for review of the agency's action and the North Carolina Poultry Federation intervened, attacking the state’s authority to permit the facility. In October 2011, an administrative law judge granted Rose Acre’s motion for summary judgment and held that the state lacked authority under the Clean Water Act to limit Rose Acres’ ammonia emissions. The same judge declined to rule on the conservation groups’ earlier motion to intervene. The case now moves to the Environmental Management Commission, which will review the administrative law judge’s decision.
“This case is clearly pivotal,” said Mr. Leung of Earthjustice, “because it will establish whether a state may use a Clean Water Act permit to regulate the airborne emissions of ammonia being released from a concentrated animal feeding operation.” Mr. Leung added, “This case also raises important issues of environmental justice. The poultry industry is challenging the state’s authority to protect the health and environment of the community in Hyde County, where the population is more than 40 percent African American.”
The motion, which was prepared by Earthjustice and Lynch & Eatman, is filed on behalf of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc., and Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
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