Final EPA rule exempts farms from emissions reporting

EPA finalizes its rule exempting livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities the routine emissions from their farms.

WASHINGTON – The National Pork Producers Council applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for finalizing its rule exempting livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities the routine emissions from their farms.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule on Tuesday to amend the emergency release notification that the reporting of air emissions from animal waste at farms is not required under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

"This rule is the final piece in the implementation of the FARM Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support last year and eliminated the need for livestock farmers to estimate and report to the federal government emissions from the natural breakdown of manure," said NPPC President David Herring, and a pork producer from Lillington, North Carolina. "That bipartisan measure was approved because it was unnecessary and impractical for farmers to waste time and resources alerting government agencies that there are livestock on farms."

The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act, fixed a problem created in April 2017 when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Commonly known as the "Superfund Law," CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.

Herring said the appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to "guesstimate" and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard's National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups.

EPA's new rule exempts farmers from having to make reports to state and local first responders under the federal EPCRA – an adjunct to CERCLA – that they have "hazardous" emissions on their farms.  The state and local first responders have been clear that they consider these reports unnecessary and burdensome. Instead, they prefer open lines of communication and information sharing at the local level with farmers, something the U.S. pork industry is already undertaking.

In many communities, U.S. pork producers are also local fire chiefs or members of the fire department.  Additionally, the U.S. pork industry has already changed its industry best practices through the Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA® Plus) program to encourage producers to engage with local first responders and create open lines of communication.

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said the action successfully concludes a two-year battle in which NMPF was involved at every step.

“We are pleased with the outcome of EPA’s painstaking efforts,” said Mulhern. “This final rule codifies what’s been the right thing to do all along.”

Mulhern said his organization has been engaged with this effort since April 2017, filing comments as recently as last December supporting EPA’s efforts last fall to modify its regulations to eliminate the reporting of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide air emissions from manure.

EPA’s assessment largely was based on the conclusion that the air emissions were a result of “routine agricultural operations” exempt from EPCRA reporting. Mulhern anticipates the rule will be challenged in court.

"The pork industry wants regulations that are practical and effective but applying CERCLA and EPCRA to livestock farms is neither," Herring said. "Pork producers are very strong stewards of the environment and have taken many actions over the years to protect it.  We applaud President Trump for relieving America's farmers from filing these unnecessary reports," he added.