By Shelby Burlew and Erica RogersClick here to see more...
Due to a recent court decision, some livestock farms in Michigan and across the United States may be required to report hazardous substance air emissions from manure (i.e. ammonia and hydrogen sulfide). The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) are two environmental laws that require the reporting of a hazardous substance that exceeds a reportable quantity within a 24-hour period. This allows for local, state and federal officials to determine the need for an emergency response within the community in order to lessen or mitigate the effects of the release.
In the past, livestock farms were exempt from reporting air emissions from manure under CERCLA, and only large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were subject to reporting through EPCRA. In April of 2017, EPA’s ruling was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit when citizen groups challenged the validity of the ruling. Consequently, farms are no longer exempt from the reporting requirements. Due to the Court’s ruling, livestock farms that release certain amounts of hazardous substances will be required to report these air emissions as early as January 22, 2018. Through EPA’s interpretation of the ruling, farms that use substances in “routine agricultural operations” are excluded from reporting under EPCRA (this includes routine operations on farms and animal feeding operations).
Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are substances that are commonly released on livestock farms that require reporting under CERLCA if released in amounts greater than or equal to their reportable quantity of 100 pounds within a 24-hour period. To assist in determining if a livestock farm is required to report, EPA has resources available on its website (www.epa.gov/animalwaste) to estimate air emission. There are also other models for estimating emissions. Farms may estimate emissions by relying on 1) past release data, 2) engineering estimates, 3) personal knowledge of the facility’s operations and release history, and 5) best professional judgement. Michigan State University Extension recognizes that it will be challenging for farmers to estimate releases and that many factors may influence emissions such as geographic location, environmental conditions, general management practices, animal characteristics, and operating conditions.