The Bush administration needs to rewrite rules for controlling manure runoff from large cattle, hog and poultry farms, three environmental groups said yesterday in announcing a lawsuit to overturn the rules.

The suit followed challenges by producers. A lottery will be held to determine where the U.S. appeals court case will be heard -- San Francisco, New York, the District of Columbia or Richmond.

Issued Dec. 16 by the Environmental Protection Agency, the rules require an estimated 15,500 "factory farms" to obtain discharge permits, write and implement nutrient management plans and report annually on the number of animals on each farm, the amount of manure generated and disposal methods.

Currently, 4,500 operations are required to have pollution permits.

Melanie Shepherdson of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a plaintiff, said large farms were handed "essentially a self-permitting scheme" that limits public review and will not prevent pollution.

NRDC and the Sierra Club filed suit in San Francisco. The third group, Waterkeeper Alliance, filed in New York. The American Farm Bureau Federation filed its own suit, accusing EPA of overreaching, in Richmond. The National Chicken Council, a trade group, filed its challenge in the District.

Environmental groups said EPA gave feedlots too much authority in writing management plans, failed to make large meatpackers share responsibility when they subcontract with a farmer to raise livestock and did not limit the practice of spreading liquid manure on fields.

In its suit, AFBF questioned EPA's authority to require permits.

According to the Chicken Council, more than three-fourths of U.S. chicken farmers are writing management plans voluntarily.