The Trump administration is moving forward with a plan to permanently exempt livestock operations from requirements to report releases of hazardous air emissions to state and local emergency officials, setting up a likely legal showdown with environmentalists over the scope of the underlying statute.
A newly proposed rule would shield farms from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the 1986 statute that requires the reporting of emissions of hazardous chemicals above certain thresholds.
The law affects large livestock operations as animal waste produces ammonia and hydrogen sulfides, the two gases that can trigger notification responsibilities under EPCRA. Releases of more than 100 pounds a day must be reported under the law.
EPA has long suggested concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) should be exempt from the law but its past efforts have been struck down in federal court.
In 2017 a federal appeals court sided with environmentalists and blocked a 2008 rule that exempted most CAFOs from EPCRA and all farms from inter-related requirements laid out by the Superfund law. The move prompted the Trump administration to issue new guidance last year that went further than the 2008 rule, exempting all farms from the EPCRA requirements. Congress in March enacted an exemption for CAFOs from reporting requirements of the Superfund law within the 2018 omnibus spending bill.
The bid to again codify the EPCRA exemption in regulation has strong support from the agriculture industry and was announced Tuesday (Oct. 30) by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, along with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, state emergency responders and representatives of the livestock industry.
“It was never the intent of Congress for normal odors from animal waste on farms to fall under our nation’s emergency hazardous waste reporting requirements,” Moran said.
Wheeler echoed that sentiment Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the National Chicken Council (NCC) annual meeting where he said the proposal will ensure the livestock exemption is “clear and crystallized” in a rulemaking.
“Doing so will provide much needed certainty and clarity to America’s farmers, ranchers and chicken producers,” Wheeler told NCC. “It will save them from onerous reporting requirements and [from] third parties possibly using that information against them in litigation.”
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