Thursday, September 11, 2014

Indiana Sets Rules for "Satellite" Manure Storage Structures

A few years ago, concerned Indiana residents raised complaints with their elected officials about the storage of manure in remote ponds, or “lagoons” that were not sited next to existing livestock farms.  There was also concern that poultry litter was being shipped across state lines from Ohio into Indiana (this is perfectly legal, by the way, due to the Interstate Commerce Clause in the US Constitution).  The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for years had regulated concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and their Indiana equivalent, confined animal feeding operations (CFOs), but nowhere did the rules capture these stand-alone manure structures.  Now Indiana has rules on the books.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to prohibit the construction of “satellite manure storage structures” (SMSS) without first obtaining state approval.  State law defines these structures as, “a building, lagoon, pad, pit, pond, or tank” that is designed for the storage of “at least one million (1,000,000) gallons of manure; or at least five thousand (5,000) cubic yards of manure.”  IC § 13-11-2-196.2.  Smaller structures remain unregulated.

On September 10, 2014, the Environmental Rules Board adopted preliminary rules for putting this statute into effect.  These rules can be found here:  Satellite Manure Storage Structure Rules (Preliminary).  The rules essentially follow the standards for construction of manure storage structures at CAFOs and CFOs established by the National Resources Conservation Service.  The NRCS standards can be found here:  NRCS Conservation Standards.   Existing regulated livestock producers should note that if a SMSS accepts manure from their permitted operation, the structure is deemed an “expansion” requiring a new CAFO or CFO approval, rather than simply a SMSS approval.  This means most SMSS will ultimately be permitted by crop farmers in Indiana rather than livestock producers. 

Various environmental groups complained that standards are not strict enough.  Local media have picked up on these complaints because they make for good headlines.  The Indianapolis Star, for example, headlined an article:  Indiana Too Lax on Livestock Ponds?  WTHR wrote: Dumped in Indiana: State Panel Gives Preliminary OK for New Manure Storage Rules.

But the truth is that SMSS standards are just as strict as standards for manure storage structures built on farmsteads. And because these remote storage facilities do not have a continuous flow of manure (unlike onsite lagoons), maintenance is much simpler because it is easy to take a SMSS out of service.  The real question for farmers is whether their local zoning ordinances will permit SMSS or effectively zone them out of existence with deep setback requirements.

Will other states follow Indiana’s development of regulations for satellite manure storage structures? Time will tell.

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