Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 26, 2022


Hannah Connor, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 681-1676,
Jessica Gable, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2478,

Colorado Court Agrees to Hear Legal Challenge to State’s Failure to Protect Waterways, Wildlife From Factory Farm Pollution

DENVER— The Colorado Office of Administrative Courts has agreed to hear a challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch to a statewide general water-pollution permit for concentrated animal feeding operations.

The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 31.

The announcement on Monday of the hearing follows a years-long legal fight by the groups seeking permit terms that require factory farms in the state to monitor and report their water pollution as the Clean Water Act directs. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment requested that the court hold a hearing to consider the groups’ challenge to the permit.

“Colorado can’t continue to pick and choose which industries get a pass for their unlawful pollution,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Factory farms are a major source of water pollution in Colorado, in no small part because the state’s lenient permit terms allow regulators to look the other way.”

The Clean Water Act keeps waterways safe for people and wildlife by requiring polluters such as factory farms to follow strict discharge permits to limit dangerous pollution. But Colorado’s permitting process for factory farms contains loopholes that conceal the timing and amounts of pollution released by the operations into waterways.

In October 2021 and again in June 2022, the Center, joined later by Food & Water Watch, challenged Colorado’s failure to include monitoring and reporting provisions in its statewide water pollution permit for factory farms that are vital to holding these operations accountable for illegal pollution.

“As long as factory farms in Colorado are allowed to skirt the Clean Water Act’s pollution-monitoring requirements, these industrial facilities will continue to operate with impunity,” said Tyler Lobdell, an attorney at Food & Water Watch. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a responsibility to protect its constituents and Colorado’s irreplaceable water resources. That starts with holding factory farms accountable and bringing state regulation in line with federal law.”

Factory farms discharge pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, pathogens, heavy metals, salts and pharmaceuticals that can harm water quality, wildlife and public health. Because of this pollution risk, factory farms are regulated as “point sources” under the federal Clean Water Act, which requires polluters to follow permits that limit discharges and require monitoring to demonstrate that facilities are in compliance.

Of the 100 factory farms in Colorado that maintain a Clean Water Act permit, 99 operate under the terms of the general permit at issue in this challenge.

Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance of a comparable general permit for factory farms in Idaho was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law, since the permit lacked sufficient monitoring provisions to ensure compliance with the permit.

The Center and Food & Water Watch are represented in this lawsuit by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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