On Feb. 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit extended a stay of air emissions reporting from livestock wastes through at least May 1, 2018. The reporting deadline was scheduled for Jan. 22, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked for an additional 90-day extension.
EPA had asked for an additional stay to provide the agency with more time to prepare for any reporting obligations. In its motion for stay, EPA cited a need for more time to refine guidance to industry on meeting the reporting obligations and to finalize agriculture-specific forms that would be used to report emissions from animal wastes to EPA.
Livestock and poultry farms that meet certain thresholds were required to start reporting certain air emissions beginning Jan. 22, prior to the request for another delay. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April 2017 rejected an exemption for farms from reporting “hazardous” emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
CERCLA mainly is used to clean hazardous waste sites but has a federal reporting component, while EPCRA requires entities to report on the storage, use and release of hazardous substances to state and local governments, including first responders.
Livestock industry groups supported EPA’s request, while environmentalist and animal rights groups, who have previously pushed the court to apply these reporting obligations to farms, took no position on this latest request for stay.
Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said the group was pleased that the "court recognized, by again delaying the reporting deadline, that farmers need more information and guidance on how to estimate and report emissions from their farms."
EPA’s motion delineated the many challenges they are facing as they work to provide guidance to farmers across the United States. The agency’s motion indicates the additional time will give EPA the opportunity to consider the many comments it has received since it released preliminary reporting guidance in October 2017. The extension will also allow EPA to conduct a broader outreach program that will assist farms with coming into compliance. This will especially benefit farms that may not be aware of the reporting requirements and guidance because they do not have access to the internet.
John Starkey, president of USPOULTRY commented, “We are happy the court recognizes the many challenges this reporting requirement creates and has responded positively to EPA’s reasonable request for additional time. This provides time for a broad and efficient outreach campaign that informs producers of these crucial requirements.”
It is estimated that approximately 60,000-100,000 livestock and poultry operations will be subject to the reporting requirement. The reporting level would be reached by a facility with approximately 330 head (for a confinement facility), according to a calculator used by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that is based on emissions produced by the commingling of solid manure and urine.
Chad Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the United Egg Producers, said the action only postpones the inevitable problems that will be created when hundreds of thousands of livestock farmers will be required to report emissions from manure -- for which no practical way to estimate exists -- or face significant civil penalties.
“It is well documented that these estimates serve no useful emergency response purpose, and responders at the federal, state and local level all agree the information is not needed or wanted,” Gregory said.
Livestock groups are urging members of Congress to offer a legislative solution to fend off the need for reporting. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) has launched a video campaign to call out why the reporting is unnecessary.
In one of its videos, Virginia cattle producer Steve Hopkins explained why it "makes no sense whatsoever" for Washington, D.C., to regulate his operation as if it were a toxic "superfund" site. NCBA chief environmental counsel Scott Yager explained that only a permanent legislative fix will give producers the protection and certainty they need.
Gregory said UEP and its farmer-members continue to “urge members of Congress to swiftly work to amend or repeal these burdensome and unnecessary requirements.”