aerial view of feedlot cattle

EPA asks for 90-day extension for emissions reporting

Livestock producers told to hold off on reporting emissions of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide from barns and manure storage.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a motion Jan. 19 to extend the stay for the reporting of emissions for another 90 days.

Livestock and poultry farms that meet certain thresholds were required to start reporting certain air emissions beginning Jan. 22. 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).

“With no apparent opposition taken, it appears that reporting may not be required for at least 90 more days. Therefore, at this time, reporting is not required by the previously looming Jan. 22 potential deadline,” according to an update from Cornell University.

The notice from Cornell recommended, in the meantime, that producers not report emissions of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide from barns and manure storage.

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.

The court late last year pushed back the reporting deadline after EPA –  supported by a brief from the National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. – asked it to delay the mandate so the agency could have “more time to provide farmers more specific and final guidance before they must estimate and report emissions and to develop a system that allows farmers to comply with their legal obligations.”

The reporting requirement will have direct application to larger livestock operations with air emissions that house beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, hogs and poultry.

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.

Leah Ziemba, partner at Michael Best, said EPA filed a motion for a stay in part to finalize its reporting forms for the initial reporting requirements in the first 30 days of the mandate being implemented. She explained that EPA has sent for final review to the Office of Management & Budget the more streamlined form for producers to submit if they determined that they would reach the emissions threshold.

Ziemba added that although environmental groups that challenged the law did not support an extension, they did not oppose it, meaning it is likely that the court will grant the extension.

She said she doesn't believe EPA is close to finalizing its updated emission estimation methodologies. In addition, there is work to do to find a legislative solution to the reporting requirements.

TAGS: EPA
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