"These massive farms, or CAFOs—concentrated animal feeding operations—can house hundreds of thousands of animals in confined spaces, creating potent volumes of nutrient pollution that have fouled rivers, lakes and oceans," Gustin writes. "Decomposing manure releases toxic chemicals, mostly ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, into the air. Manure stored in lagoons releases methane and nitrous oxide, global warming gases more powerful than carbon dioxide." (Map of North Carolina's animal feed operations created by nonprofit advocacy group Waterkeepers Alliance. For an interactive version click here)
Last month "a federal appeals court ruled EPA violated the privacy of CAFO operators by releasing information about their farms, which had been requested by three environmental groups through the Freedom of Information Act in 2013," Gustin writes. "The ruling was a victory for the $186 billion meat-and-poultry industry, but environmental groups say it prevents the agency from better regulating CAFOs, at a time when a boom in construction may be on the way."