Council on Environmental Quality Seeks to Dismiss Complaint about Animal Feeding Rule

The Council on Environmental Quality and its chair, Mary Neumayr, filed a motion on Thursday seeking to dismiss a complaint filed against it for allegedly simplifying rules to receive funding and no longer requiring economic reports for feeding operations. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs lack standing and do not have claims that are “ripe for judicial review.” 

The District of Columbia complaint, which criticizes a new rule for funding of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) was filed in late September by plaintiffs Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Association of Irritated Residents, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc., and Waterkeepers Chesapeake. The parties claimed that the new rule would have negative environmental effects because it no longer requires CAFOs to file environmental reports to receive loans and grants from the government. 

The defendants’ brief in support of their request for dismissal claimed that the July 2020 altering of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations was a result of careful consideration and was meant to reduce paperwork and “promote better decisions.” 

The council argued that the complaint is not valid because it does not include a dispute over a specific application of the new rule regarding loans for CAFOs. The council asserts that there are no special circumstances to justify a direct review and that typically regulations only receive Administrative Procedures Act review relating to a specific instance. 

The brief said that the 2020 rule does not regulate the actions of any of the plaintiffs, and so it cannot be a cause of injury without a specific instance. “Plaintiff’s premature facial review is thus barred by the doctrines of ripeness and standing,” the defendants state. Further, the council argues that because the plaintiffs did not claim a site-specific application, they lack standing. Claims about future environmental harm are reportedly not sufficient to satisfy Article III. 

The defendants are represented by the United States Department of Justice. The plaintiffs are represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund