Ruling Sends Cattlemen Scrambling
The Weld County Office of Emergency Management was inundted with telephone calls Tuesday from cattle and dairy operators who needed to comply with a new Environmental Protection Agency reporting regulation.
The EPA issued a ruling Dec. 18 requiring large livestock operations to file air emissions reports by first making telephone calls to their state and local emergency response authorities, then by filing a written notification of emissions statements.
The rule went into effect Tuesday, the first day of the Obama administration.
The National Pork Producers Council filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday challenging the EPA’s ruling, which falls under the Environmental Protection and Community Right to Know Act. The organization also alleges the EPA violated the due process rights of farmers by failing to develop an adequate system to accept the reports, making compliance with the law impossible.
Roy Rudisill, director of the Weld Office of Emergency Management, documented the calls he got and asked the Weld County Sheriff’s Office to e-mail any calls it received so he could document compliance from Weld operations.
Undersheriff Margie Martinez said the phone “rang off the hook” throughout the day as local operations attempted to comply with what she called “an unfounded federal mandate.”
The new regulation deals with ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from feedlots and dairies that go beyond allowable limits, but Martinez said no one seems to know what those limits are.
Bill Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association, agreed.
“What we’ve been able to determine, from Texas A & M, Kansas State and Colorado State, is that the numbers they (EPA) are using are grossly overestimated. It’s just a joke,” said Hammerich, who added that he appreciated Weld officials taking the names of those who called so they could be documented as reporting.
Bryan Black, a pork producer, from Canal Winchester, Ohio, and president of The National Pork Producers Council, was angry about the ruling.
“In sticking the agricultural community with the unworkable rule, EPA not only failed to provide any guidance to farmers on compliance with the new regulation or develop an adequate system to handle the volume of reports that would be filed, but it actively engaged in efforts that undermined the ability of farmers to comply with this new, stringent rule,” Black said in a press release.
Black said EPA told state officials not to accept reports and provided on its Web site false and out-of-date information on filing reports. Additionally, the agency did not issue guidance for complying with the rule until 4:30 p.m. Friday – the last business day before filing deadline – giving America’s 67,000 Pork producers and hundreds of thousands of other livestock farmers only 30 minutes to receive, read and intrepret the guidance and to develop and file the appropriate emissions report.
In the lawsuit it filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the council is challenging EPA’s decision to exclude livestock operations from the agriculture exemption and asking the court to enjoin EPA from enforcing the rule until the agency develops a system that will allow pork producers to comply.
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