The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has concluded a 30-day public comment period on its intent to approve a permit for a proposed 150,000-head cattle feeding operation in Dundy County.

Jonathan Leo, an environmental and land-use lawyer, said a large, critical component of the operation — a 36-unit anaerobic digester complex for the manure — was not mentioned in the application for the permit nor the state’s notice of its intent to approve.

(For factual information about anaerobic digestors, click HERE or HERE.)

The proposed feed yard, which has received a conditional use permit from the Dundy County Commissioners, would be the largest cattle CAFO in the history of Nebraska, nearly twice as large as any that now exist, Leo said.

He said the waste management would use a “dangerous, highly sophisticated technology of biogas digesters, with pipelines running from the sewage lagoons to the digesters.”

A Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy spokesperson said once the department receives Blackshirt’s application, another public comment period and hearing will be held. Biodigester permitting falls under both the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Leo considers the lack of detailed plans to be a serious omission in the company’s, Blackshirt Feeders’, plan to manage the facility’s roughly 3 billion tons of manure a year.

Leo said people commented on the construction and operating permit without knowing the full story.

Nebraska Farmer’s Union President John Hansen said the size and scope of the facility and the waste it will generate require more due diligence in the permitting process. Hansen noted that the operation is being proposed for a part of the state that has suffered from drought. “It’s also been getting more water supply challenges,” Hansen said. “This is a massive use of water. And we certainly have water quality problems in our state.”

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