EPA would exempt CAFOs from right-to-know reporting of manure gases

In March, Congress exempted industrial farms from a Superfund law requirement to report emissions from animal waste to federal officials. Now the EPA is taking a related step with a proposed rule that would exempt the large livestock farms from a similar requirement, this one under a “community right-to-know law,” that they notify state and local officials of gases produced by the manure on their farms.

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the proposal during a ceremony in Kansas and said the rule “ensures our emergency response officials are focusing on hazardous waste emergencies and not routine animal waste.” There will be a 30-day comment period once the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

Eleven environmental and animal welfare groups sued the EPA on Oct. 22 to force the farms to report emissions to state and local officials. Activists say livestock farms and the manure produced by the animals generate methane, ammonia, and other pollutant gases. In North Carolina, residents have filed lawsuits alleging that neighboring hog farms create a nuisance because of odors, noise, and insects.

In 2008, the EPA exempted large livestock farms from reporting emissions under the Superfund law. A U.S. appeals court overruled the EPA in April 2017, leading Congress to enact legislation to reinstate the exemption.

“It was never the intent of Congress for normal odors from animal waste on farms to fall under our nation’s emergency hazardous waste reporting requirements,” said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who watched Wheeler sign the proposed rule on Tuesday. “The resources of our emergency responders ought to be focused on protecting the public from true environmental and chemical emergencies, not odors from animal waste.”

Livestock groups applauded the proposal. “The pork industry wants regulations that are practical and effective,” said the National Pork Producers Council, which contends that the Superfund and right-to-know requirements were wasteful.

To read the proposed rule, click here.