By Mary Berg
Hazardous substance reporting laws may affect livestock producers.
For livestock operations, reportable substances would include ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which are in all livestock waste.
Livestock producers are concerned about how federal reporting requirements for hazardous substances could affect them.
Two environmental laws - the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), often referred to as Superfund, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) - require facilities to report releases of hazardous substances that meet or exceed a reportable quantity within a 24-hour period.
For U.S. livestock operations, the reportable substances would include ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which are in the manure and urine of all livestock, according to Mary Berg, the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s area livestock environmental management specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center.
The reportable quantity for these substances is 100 pounds per day. This means that if 100 pounds or more of these substances are released into the air in a 24-hour period, producers would have to report them.
“But no reporting is required at this time,” Berg stresses.
That’s because a federal appeals court has delayed the starting date for the reporting requirements.
These laws are not new. Congress passed EPCRA in 1986.
“Congress recognized that hazardous materials are stored in many locations, and knowledge about what is stored where can help all of us make better decisions about the risks associated with living or working nearby,” Berg says. “That knowledge also is valuable for emergency personnel who are responding to a fire or other emergency.”
In December 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted most farms from certain release reporting requirements in CERCLA and EPCRA. However, on April 11, 2017, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals eliminated the reporting exemptions for farms.
The EPA then asked the federal appeals court to delay the date that producers would have to begin reporting. The EPA wanted time to develop guidance materials to help farmers understand their reporting obligations.
On Feb. 1, the court granted the EPA’s request to postpone the necessity to report until May 1, 2018.
EPA officials say they know that estimating releases will be challenging for producers because no generally accepted estimating method is available. The officials also note that emissions can’t be standardized solely on the number and type of animals at each animal operation. For example, some operations with fewer animals may have higher emissions than operations with greater numbers of the same animal species.
EPA officials are working on developing methods for estimating emissions from a wide variety of operations. However, that work will not be completed prior to the start of the court’s mandate that producers report emissions.
“Several livestock stakeholder groups have been working together to monitor this situation,” Berg says. “The EPA has been helpful and prompt in answering compliance questions.”