EPA full of manure on methane level estimates for farms

The Environmental Protection Agency has overestimated the levels of water pollution on poultry farms by as much as half according to a recent study by the University of Delaware.

The findings of the study, a multi-institutional study which was led by the school, found in their multi-state study that the levels of nitrogen found in poultry house manure is actually 55 percent lower than the decades-old standards set by the EPA which has opened up the possibility of many farmers being wrongly fined for polluting the ecosystem for years.

“For me, it is not surprising, because the way in which the EPA works…it does not have a whole lot of credibility,” Don Parrish, Senior Director, Regulatory Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation said to FoxNews.com. “They do have positive goals, but there’s a real disconnect in the nature of interpreting science in modern agriculture.”

“It’s a systematic application that is putting farmers in a negative light.”

One case study from the report showed that poultry houses in Sussex County, Delaware generated 261,723 tons of manure in one year studied. The figure is much lower than the nearly 1.5 million tons assumed using EPA models.

The study, which was also conducted in Virginia and West Virginia, cited Genetic improvements in birds, improved farming environments and an effort to limit waste and pollutants for having a positive effect on the farm industry's environmental footprint.

“[The] findings are significant because they represent the most current data available, based on tests of thousands of samples of actual manure, not estimates,” Dan Shortridge, spokesman for Delaware Department of Agriculture, which participated in the study, said to FoxNews.com.

“When making decisions and forming policies and goals - especially about our environment - it is important to have the most accurate data, and that's what this represents. What this provides policymakers is a detailed look at the actual effects of manure, and it appears to be less than everyone had thought.”

Shortridge added that the program has been in discussion with the EPA over findings and that a formal report will be presented in which changes will be suggested.

The inflated numbers mean that the potential for small farmers to face unjustified fines may have been prevalent for years, if not decades.

One West Virginia farmer fought back against the EPA when they threatened her with a nearly $40,000 per day fine until she obtained a Clean Water Act discharge permit for rainwater runoff by filing a lawsuit against the federal agency along with the AFBF challenging the permit order.

Lois Alt, who owns small Eight is Enough poultry farm in the town of Old Fields, West Virginia, was originally issued an administrative order by the EPA back in November 2011 for storm water hitting chicken manure, feathers, and dust on the ground.

“They said, ‘just do the paperwork and get the permit and we’ll probably never come back to your farm again,’” Alt said in a video released by the AFBF back in December 2012. “That kind of fueled my fire.”

In June of the same year, Alt filed a suit against the EPA contesting the order along with the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the AFBF. In response, the EPA killed the violation order against Alt.

Her lawsuit is still pending a hearing despite the order reversal.

“EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman in a written statement in April. “The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn’t changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position.”

“Ms. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit, but for the benefit of other farmers,” he added. “She refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA and environmental groups.”

The court agreed and denied a motion by the EPA to dismiss the lawsuit with hearings scheduled for June 1st.

Officials for the EPA did not immediately return a request for comment.