EPA draft of AFO emissions estimation methods may be useless

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 -The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) suggests the emissions estimating methodologies (EEM) proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the development of lagoons and basins for swine and dairy feeding operations is not worth the paper it's printed on.

“If the EEMs become finalized in the form they are now they will be utterly useless,” said NPPC Chief Environmental Council Michael Formica in comments submitted to the agency. “Producers would feel very much like how the environmentalists are going to feel, that this entire process has been a waste of time,” he said.

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Formica insisted that “we are no further along than where we were before with these draft tools to estimate emission.”

Environmental groups commenting on the draft EEM document took a slightly different tack.

Attorney Tarah Heinzein, representing the Environmental Integrity Project, one of many environmental groups commenting on the proposal, suggested that while not perfect, the EEM was forward progress in a lengthy and contentious issue, and urged EPA to continue its efforts.

“This has been going on for more than a decade,” Heinzein said. “It is time that the EPA comes up with these estimating tools, finalize them, and begin requiring operators to estimate and report their emissions . . . This would begin actual regulation under the Clean Air Act.”

In January 2005, the EPA announced the voluntary Air Compliance Agreement (ACA) with the animal feeding operations (AFO) industry. More than 2,600 agreements were signed under the ACA, representing approximately 14,000 swine, dairy, egg-laying and broiler chicken farms, according to the agency.

Under the ACA, participating AFOs were responsible for funding the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS) - a two-year study of animal confinement structures and manure storage and treatment units.

The study's purpose was to gather emissions data that the EPA could use to develop EEMs. The emissions monitoring study began five years ago and consisted of 24 monitoring sites located in nine states, assessing levels of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, ammonia, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds and other gases from livestock facilities.

The EPA used the data from the study to develop a tool to easily calculate the likelihood that the operation will exceed the reporting or permitting thresholds, as required under the ACA.

“It is clear that the EPA was under a lot of political pressure to develop these tools and they tried to create something that seemed very complex, technical and scientific,” said Formica. “In doing so they have created something that is essentially unusable nonsense.”

Formica said that 99% of his farmers would not be able to use these proposed methodologies, calling the proposed emission methodologies a “hugely complex statistical analysis.”

According to the EPA's draft document, once the EEMs are finalized, the EPA expects the AFO industry will use the methodologies to estimate daily and annual emissions for use in determining each AFO's regulatory responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Producers who signed the compliance agreement are bound by the reporting thresholds and, Formica said, they would have no choice but to “sue EPA and drag this process on even longer” if they are finalized as is.

“Creating estimating methodologies, even imperfect ones, is a step in the right direction,” countered EIP's Heinzein. “I sincerely hope that the factory farm industry will abide by the agreement they crafted with EPA rather than [sue] to further delay regulation.”

Formica said the pork producers told EPA “to go back to the drawing board,” which, he added “is the same thing the [EPA's] Scientific Advisory Board told them to do” earlier this year.

The NPPC concluded its written comments by stating that “a simple tool is all that is needed.”


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