WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2017 - The Environmental Protection Agency has until Nov. 14 to figure out how to enforce emissions reporting requirements for thousands of animal feeding operations.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals gave EPA until then to comply with its April ruling that found the agency illegally exempted all but the largest concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from reporting releases of hazardous substances, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, above certain levels.

The court was addressing a 2008 rule that contained a blanket exemption from the air reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which requires reporting to federal authorities, and exempted all but the largest CAFOs from requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which requires reporting to state and local authorities.

EPA, supported by the National Pork Producers Council and the USA Poultry & Egg Association, asked the court to delay issuing its mandate – essentially, the order requiring EPA to enforce the emissions rule – until Jan. 17. EPA and the trade groups said farmers don’t know how to comply.

EPA’s Office of Emergency Management “has received numerous inquiries from farms and farm representatives expressing confusion as to how to meet the CERCLA and EPCRA reporting obligations since the court’s ruling,” EPA said in a court brief.

“EPA reasonably requires a stay of the mandate until Jan. 17 to develop guidance on estimating aerial emissions, which will help avoid disruption and ease the transition to compliance for existing facilities, and assist new and future farms,” the agency said.

When the mandate issues, NPPC and USPOULTRY said in their brief, “farmers at tens of thousands of small and medium sized farms will have had to determine whether the animal waste at their farms may emit hazardous substances like ammonia in amounts exceeding EPA’s CERCLA and EPCRA reporting thresholds. Unless EPA is given time to develop guidance on how to comply with the statutory reporting provisions, there will be no uniformity in how farms estimate their emissions.”

Environmental groups that brought the lawsuit over the reporting exemptions said there was no need for a delay. Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Environmental Integrity Project, and Center for Food Safety said that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) “have been reporting releases without any guidance for over a decade. And EPA has been collecting and analyzing emissions data, similarly for over a decade, for the purpose of developing guidance – but guidance still has not (been) issued.”

“EPA ignores the fact that all CAFOs were subject to the EPCRA/CERCLA release reporting requirements prior to 2008,” they argued. “Moreover, the illegal exemption in the now-vacated final rule retained the EPCRA reporting requirement for large CAFOs.”

EPA, however, said that “the fact that all farmers were subject to the reporting requirements before 2008 does not mean they understood how to meet those requirements.”


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