On December 18, 2008, the US EPA published a final rule that clarified which livestock facilities must report air emissions from their facilities. The two regulations covered by that publication include the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). In 2009, a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting rule was also published and is covered in a separate page on this site.
Animal agriculture was granted an administrative exemption from reporting air emissions that normally occur from raising farm animals under CERCLA.
Farms that are not large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) according to NPDES permitting rules, are exempt from reporting under EPCRA. Without this exemption, much more wide-spread and rigorous reporting would be required.
Passage of the 2008 final rule provides a legal exemption that applies to most livestock operations and clarifies where the exemption does not apply – essentially for large CAFOs under EPCRA. EPCRA requires that, whenever there is a known release of a hazardous substance, the person in charge of a facility must notify state and local emergency responders.
Regulation of CAFO reporting is to be based upon ‘good faith emissions estimates’. A limited number of approaches for obtaining estimates are available. For most types of animal feeding operations, ammonia emissions are likely to trigger a reporting requirement, with reporting of hydrogen sulfide being much less likely.
The rule clarifying the limited exemption is in the public record and is effective on January 20, 2009. For large CAFOs, a common interpretation is that there will be increasing liability for not complying with EPCRA following this effective date. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in fines up to $25,000 per day.
In contradiction to information provided in the December, 2009 webcast presentation, a one-year follow-up report for EPCRA is not required from a [large] CAFO, provided that the state does not require such a report and no substantial changes have been implemented in the operation. This is because the one-year follow-up report is a CERCLA requirement, and animal agriculture is exempt from CERCLA. Those potentially affected by this rule are encouraged to follow-up with state authorities to determine if the state has a one-year follow-up reporting requirement and take the appropriate course of action.