Pork, beef groups praise EPA rule exempting farms from air emissions
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on June 4 signed a final rule amending the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to clarify reporting of air emissions from animal waste at farms is not required under EPCRA.
“This final rule provides clarity and certainty to the regulated community that animal waste emissions from farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA,” Wheeler said in a news release. “This action eliminates an onerous reporting requirement and allows emergency responders and farmers to focus on protecting the public and feeding the nation, not routine animal waste emissions.”
“The goal of emergency response officials and local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) is to prepare communities for emergency threats related to hazardous chemical releases. Such emergency threats do not include ‘best guess’ reporting on day-to-day emissions on farms and animal operations,” said National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO) President Tim Gablehouse. “The focus of LEPCs should be and is on chemical hazards that present meaningful risk of harm to community members and first responders. We look forward to working on enhanced coordination and cooperation between all community members to improve preparedness for hazardous chemical releases.”
In the news release, EPA noted that the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill contained a provision titled the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act or the FARM Act, which expressly exempts reporting of air emissions from animal waste (including decomposing animal waste) at a farm from CERCLA section 103 (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act). The FARM Act also provides definitions for the terms “animal waste” and “farm.” Because these types of releases are exempted under CERCLA, based on the release reporting criteria under EPCRA section 304, these types of releases are also exempt under EPCRA section 304.
National Pork Producers Council President David Herring said in a news release, “Today’s rule is the final piece in the implementation of the FARM Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support last year and eliminated the need for livestock farmers to estimate and report to the federal government emissions from the natural breakdown of manure. That bipartisan measure was approved because it was unnecessary and impractical for farmers to waste time and resources alerting government agencies that there are livestock on farms.”
NPPC said that the FARM Act fixed a problem created in April 2017, when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under CERCLA. Commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.
The appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups, NPPC said.
Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said, “Farmers, ranchers, and emergency response officials all agree: Routine emissions from agricultural operations are not a threat to local communities. Congress made a common-sense decision to exempt livestock producers from frivolous reporting requirements at the federal level with its passage of the FARM Act, and we are glad to see EPA fully implement the law by providing relief from burdensome state and local reporting requirements.” ❖