Ten environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for exempting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from reporting emissions of hazardous substances to state and local officials. In a complaint filed last week in federal court in Washington, D.C., the groups said EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to ask for public comment on its Aug. 1 Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act exemption rule. Congress included an exemption from reporting animal waste emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in the omnibus spending bill it approved in March. Based on that legislation, EPA exempted CAFOs from EPCRA reporting requirements, as well, a conclusion that drew criticism from Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who told EPA in a letter that was not the intent of the legislation. Congress approved the CERCLA exemption after an intensive campaign by farming organizations who said the new reporting requirements were unworkable, but the Democratic senators, including Tom Carper of Delaware, one of the legislation’s supporters, said EPCRA was supposed to remain unaffected. A D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year struck down previous CERCLA and EPCRA exemptions, leading to the legislation and EPA’s decision to expand the exemption to EPCRA reporting.
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