EPA Region 10 in 2012 and 2013 issued the Yakima Nitrate Study in which it determined dairies in the Sunnyside area were responsible for nitrate contamination in groundwater. The study was used as the basis for punitive enforcement against four dairy farms and for the citizen lawsuit known as the Cow Palace case.
Combined, the enforcement and litigation has cost one of the farms over $11 million. Other family business operations have kept this farm in business. Another family dairy ceased operations and two others are struggling to survive against massive costs.
But the study was wrong!
Over 15 science experts have reviewed the study and report and concluded it is false. A number pointed to the numerous errors in data collection and incorrect conclusions. EPA failed to follow its own and federal policies requiring science of this nature to be reviewed by external peer reviewers.
Not only did they fail to allow experts to review the study, when challenged on this failure, staff falsely informed the new Region 10 Administrator that the review “was thorough and complete” then changed the category of the study to cover up the fact that they failed to conduct a proper peer review. While failure to allow science to be scrutinized by experts violates federal policy, it is not a crime. However, intentionally misstating critical facts and changing a category of a science study after the fact to coverup their failure is a violation of federal law.
Justice for farmers is at stake. The EPA study was used to coerce farmers into farm-killing punitive enforcement. It is used by the environmental litigation industry to sue farmers and to attempt to force Washington State into legislation and regulations that will destroy most of our family dairy farms.
Save Family Farming is urging the EPA to address this gross injustice by requesting an appropriate peer review, retracting the study until the peer review is completed and producing the information as to who changed the categorization from “influential science information” to “other” and when that change was made. We are also asking the EPA’s Office of Inspector General to investigate this abuse and lack of transparency in critical science information and the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation into the conduct of Region 10 leaders and staff.