By J. David Aiken
SUMMARY. Federal environmental laws require the reporting of emissions or releases of hazardous substances greater than the EPA-established minimum amounts. EPA has established a 2008 reporting exemption for livestock operations smaller than large CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). Environmental groups challenged the EPA livestock exemption. On April 11, 2017, the DC federal court of appeals invalidated the livestock reporting exemption. Reporting requirements briefly went into effect November 15, 2017 but have now been postponed until January 22, 2018.
WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL CHEMICAL RELEASE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS? The 1980 federal Superfund law requires reporting to federal officials of releases of hazardous chemicals above EPA established minimum amounts. The 1986 federal Community Right to Know Act requires reporting to state and local emergency responders of similar releases.
WAS THERE ANY AG EXEMPTION? No–not specifically in either statute. In 2008 EPA adopted a regulation exempting livestock operations from Right to Know reporting, and limited Superfund livestock reporting to larger livestock operations called large CAFOs.
SO WHAT HAPPENED? The ag exemption was challenged in court by environmental groups, and the court ruled this April that the ag exemption was not authorized by either statute.
THAT KIND OF MESSED THINGS UP FOR LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS! YES it did, although it changed nothing for large CAFOs who had always been required to report their emissions.
SO WHAT HAPPENED? Livestock producers started calling on November 15, the National Response Center told them to email the info as the phone lines were only for emergencies and these were not emergency reports, and finally the reporting has been postponed until January
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? This is not clear; I am guessing that the federal agencies are authorized to take emergency steps to keep the emergency reporting phone lines open. The NRC was receiving 1,000 calls an hour with a two-hour hold time. Finally, the D.C. Court of Appeals did on November 22, 2017, grant the EPA request to defer livestock reporting until January 22, 2018.
WHAT CHEMICALS ARE RELEASED BY LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS? The principal chemicals are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, and the minimum daily release amount that triggers reporting is 100 pounds per day for each chemical.
LARGE CAFOS CURRENTLY REPORT RELEASES OF THESE CHEMICALS? That is correct. The EPA reporting regulations allow annual reporting of “continuous releases,” where the daily amount released doesn’t vary significantly throughout the year. This means that after the initial reporting, most livestock operators only need to update annually as opposed to reporting daily.
WHEN THE NEW LIVESTOCK REPORTING REQUIREMENTS DO TAKE EFFECT, WHO WOULD NOW BE REQUIRED TO REPORT? That is not entirely clear. If you have 330 or more beef cattle you should be prepared to report. You should also check with your state and national livestock associations for additional information. I hope that EPA will establish minimum animal number reporting cutoffs before January 22, 2018, but we will have to wait and see what EPA does in this regard.
WHAT’S NEXT? It is hard to say. It is good news that reporting has been postponed until January 22. We can only hope that EPA will use this time to complete the livestock emission reporting forms EPA told the court were under development, and that these new forms provide clarity especially regarding which specific categories of livestock producers are required to submit reports. I will be monitoring the situation and will get updated information out as it becomes available.
In the meantime, if you want to get a heads up on the reporting process as it currently stands (understanding that it probably will be revised at least once before January 22, 2018), go to the EPA livestock reporting guidance at:
This EPA webpage contains the most up to date information regarding the livestock air emission reporting requirements. You may also wish to check with your state and national livestock associations.