Court Delays Livestock Operations Air Emissions Reporting Requirement

The District of Columbia federal circuit court delayed the November 15, 2017 deadline for livestock operations to report air emissions from animal waste.

In December 2008, the EPA released a final rule which exempted all livestock operations from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) reporting requirements for air emissions. All but the biggest livestock operators were also exempted from the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) reporting requirements as well. But, on April 11, 2017, a federal court invalidated those exemptions, so livestock operations would be required to report air emissions from animal waste under federal law. The EPA asked the Court for a stay to delay its ruling while the EPA figured out how such reporting would work. 

In the meantime, in October 2017, the EPA issued a guidance document to educate livestock farmers about the impending reporting deadlines. Under the guidance, livestock farms with releases above certain thresholds under CERCLA would be required to make "continuous release" reports.

The EPA recognizes that it will be challenging for farmers to report releases from animal wastes because there is no generally accepted methodology for estimating emission quantities at this time... EPA understands that farmers may need to report their releases in broad ranges that reflect the high degree of uncertainty and variability of these releases.

Most recently, on November 22, 2017, the D.C. federal circuit court stayed its April 2017 decision from taking effect until at least January 22, 2017. The 60-day stay should give lawmakers and stakeholders more time to fix the issues related to livestock air emissions reporting. This extension is welcome, but unlikely to clarify exactly how air emissions reporting should work for livestock producers. CERCLA allows continuous release reporting to be submitted in ranges. Animal waste emissions are considered stable and continuous, so livestock operations will be able to do "continuous release reporting" instead of reporting each time a reportable release occurs. But, the EPA recognizes there is no accepted way to measure air emissions from animal waste.

If nothing changes between now and January 22, 2017, farms that release more than 100 pounds of ammonia or nitrogen sulfide within 24 hours will have to notify the National Response Center. Farms will not need to report air emissions from "routine agricultural operations," like pesticide or fertilizer application. Once reporting begins, farms will generally have to follow a three-step process of reporting: (1) an email or telephone notification; (2) initial written report within 30 days; and (3) one-time anniversary report one year later. 

In short, the reporting requirements are delayed until at least January 22, 2017. Hold off on any reporting until we hear more from the Court and/or the EPA.