The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a new website to make clear the agency’s position on air emissions reporting for animal waste. You can access that webpage here.
As you may recall from this prior blog post and this prior podcast episode, this issue came to the forefront when a federal court held in 2017 that agricultural operations were required to report air emissions under federal law upon finding that the EPA did not have the authority to create an exemption for agriculture. There are two federal statutes, CERCLA and EPCRA, that deal with hazardous waste emissions. This court ruling and reporting requirement caused a good deal of concern and confusion in the agricultural industry as producers struggled to determine who was required to report and how to estimate the emissions of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from manure.
Prior to the deadline to begin reporting, Congress stepped in. Included in the Omnibus budget bill was language termed the Fair Agricultural Reporting Act (“FARM Act”). This legislation states that “air emissions from animal waste at a farm” are exempt from reporting under CERCLA. Thus, regardless of the federal court decision that the 2008 exemption was unlawful, Congress has now passed the exemption itself.
In addition, the EPA takes the position that emissions are not required to be reported under EPCRA. The EPA explains that two reasons led to this conclusion. First, because these emissions are not required to be reported under CERCLA, they are likewise not required to be reported under EPCRA Section 304. [For more info, click here.] Second, EPCRA expressly excludes farms that only use substances in “routine agricultural operations” from reporting releases of hazardous substances under EPCRA Section 304. [For more info, click here.]
So, the takeaway here is that farmers and ranchers are not required to report–either under CERCLA or EPCRA–air emissions of hazardous substances from animal waste. For operators who may have made an initial notification prior to the FARM Act being passed, no further action is required. Livestock operators will likely breath a sigh of relief, at least for now.