EPA Looks to Clarify Livestock Farm Air Emission Reporting Exemption

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( Wyatt Bechtel )

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would amend emergency release notification regulations, making it clear that air emissions reporting for animal waste is not required for livestock operations.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the provision on Oct. 30 amending the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). If finalized, the proposed rule would give livestock producers more certainty regarding EPCRA regulations. The proposal would also help shift the focus of emergency response officials to focus on readiness and emergencies, instead of animal waste.

“This proposed rule is intended to make it clear to the regulated community that animal waste emissions from farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA,” Wheeler says. “This action provides much-needed certainty and clarity to America’s farmers and ranchers. It also ensures our emergency response officials are focusing their time and resources on hazardous waste emergencies and not routine animal waste.”

Prior to this proposed amendment, a D.C. Circuit court vacated EPA’s 2008 regulatory exemption for livestock reporting under EPCRA in May 2017. Guidance was later issued by the Trump administration stating reporting still does not need to occur from livestock producers based on EPA’s interpretation of EPCRA.

The move to formalize the exemption has the support of a number of both political and government officials, along with agriculture groups.

“Farmers and ranchers continue to face numerous challenges, and the removal of this unnecessary and burdensome regulation is welcome news for producers across our state,” says Senator (R-Kan.) Jerry Moran. “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, so I appreciate Administrator Wheeler taking definitive action today to provide certainty to the livestock industry. The resources of our emergency responders ought to be focused on protecting the public from true environmental and chemical emergencies, not odors from animal waste.”

“Our proposed rule would provide enhanced clarity for small and large animal producers and reduce confusion for emergency response officials throughout EPA Region 7, which covers the agricultural Midwest including Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri,” says EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford.

“The goal of emergency response officials and local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) is to prepare communities for emergency threats. Such emergency threats certainly do not include 'best guess' reporting on day-to-day emissions on farms and animal operations,” says National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO) President Tim Gablehouse. “These reports under EPCRA too often go ignored as they do not represent emergency situations to local communities. The focus of LEPCs should be and is on chemical hazards that present meaningful risk of harm to community members and first responders”

“The removal of this unnecessary burden will ensure that emergency first responders' important effort and time is not wasted on responding to non-emergencies. We look forward to working with local emergency planning commissions and emergency first responders to help them be familiar with how our poultry and egg facilities operate, so if there is a true emergency, their safety and efforts are enhanced,” says the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation.

“NCBA appreciates Administrator Wheeler’s effort to provide regulatory relief to America’s cattle producers. We are happy to see the EPA follow through on the commitment to conduct a rule making on EPCRA and will reiterate our call for common-sense. NCBA encourages its members to build relationships with their local first responders. Unlike the submission of needless paperwork, talking to responders about potential on-farm hazards can save lives. NCBA looks forward to submitting comments on the proposed rule,” says National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President Kevin Kester.

EPA is seeking comments regarding the interpretation of the rule. Should the provision be finalized it would uphold uniformity between the emergency release notification requirements of EPCRA and CERCLA in accordance with the statutory text and framework of EPCRA.

The proposed rule amendment can be found on the following PDF: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-10/documents/proposed_epcra_amendment_signed_10-30-18.pdf

For more information about EPA regulations regarding animal waste can be found at www.epa.gov/animalwaste

 
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