EPA Issues Interim Guidance for Farm Animal Waste Emissions Reporting EPA Issues Interim Guidance for Farm Animal Waste Emissions Reporting

EPA Issues Interim Guidance for Farm Animal Waste Emissions Reporting

U.S. EPA recently issued new interim guidance to assist farmers in meeting reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). Until recently, most farms were exempt from these requirements, but in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the exemption.

Unless the court takes further action, its ruling takes effect on Nov. 15, 2017. By that date, farms with continuous releases into the air must submit their initial continuous release notifications to federal and state authorities. Under CERCLA, no extensions for reporting are allowed unless a farm owner/operator is participating in the EPA’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement and is in compliance with the Agreement.

EPA’s interim guidance may be found at: www.epa.gov/epcra/cercla-and-epcra-reporting-requirements-air-releases-hazardous-substances-animal-waste-farms

Highlights of EPA’s interim guidance include:

  • CERCLA requires farm owners/operators to notify authorities any time their facilities release hazardous substances, such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, into the air from animal wastes that are equal to or greater than Reportable Quantities (RQs) within any 24-hour period.
  • RQs for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are each 100 pounds.
  • Alternatively, farmers can follow a streamlined process for “continuous release reporting” by making an initial report by phone, submitting an initial written notice, and submitting a one-time first anniversary report. Following this process would relieve farmers of the burden to notify authorities each time an RQ is reached.
  • EPA has not yet finalized a methodology for estimating air emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal wastes. In the interim, farmers may estimate their releases using worksheets, studies, and estimators provided by EPA, other studies, past release data, engineering estimates, the farmer’s knowledge of the facility, or the farmer’s best professional judgment. Monitoring data is not required.
  • In addition, farmers are required to immediately notify authorities of any statistically significant increase (SSI) of, or change in, previously submitted release information, such as an increase in the number of animals maintained on the farm or a significant change in (or disruption of) waste handling systems or procedures.
  • EPCRA requires farm owners/operators to report the release of hazardous substances to state and local officials. EPA interprets EPCRA to exclude farms that use substances in “routine agricultural operations,” which at this time has not been specifically defined.  EPA, however, has previously identified examples of “routine agricultural operations,” including animal waste stored on a farm to be used as a fertilizer. Such farms are not subject to EPCRA release reporting requirements, including reports of releases from animals or animal wastes. However, farms are still required to report releases of CERCLA hazardous substances under CERCLA.
Ice Miller’s environmental attorneys can help you navigate the complex array of state and federal environmental laws. If you have any questions, please contact Terry Czajka (terri.czajka@icemiller.com; 317-236-2262) Freedom Smith (freedom.smith@icemiller.com; 317-236-5893) or Don Snemis (donald.snemis@icemiller.com; 317-236-2341).

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances. 
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