Associated Press

Pork Farmers and Environmentalists Irked By New EPA Emissions Rule

January 22, 2009 08:58 AM
by Josh Katz
A new federal rule requiring the reporting of animals’ emissions is causing a stir among livestock farmers, but environmentalists are not happy either.

Pork Producers Angry With Regulations

On Monday, the National Pork Producers Council said it is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for its mandate that certain livestock farms report their estimated air emissions. The EPA rule went into effect this week, forcing livestock producers to inform the state and local authorities of the estimated emissions by phone and to detail those facts in writing within 30 days of the call, the Associated Press reports. Farms that do not abide by the new rule are punished with daily penalties of $25,000.

The council, based in Iowa, argues that livestock farms should be exempt from the rule. The pork producers also complain that the EPA did not create a “proper system for the operations to comply,” violating their due process, according to AP. The council wants the court to stop enforcement until a better system is put in place.

For their part, environmentalists aren’t happy with the new rule either, because they don’t feel it includes enough farms.

The regulation only applies to the large pork producers, or “those that have 2,500 head or more of finishing swine,” according to Pork Magazine. Such large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that release 100 pounds or more of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in the course of a day are required to file a report.

The EPA regulation is concerned with the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from “feedlots and dairies that go beyond allowable limits,” reports Colorado’s Greeley Tribune. The government declared the new requirement on Dec. 18 and the ruling sprang from the EPA’s Environmental Protection and Community Right To Know Act, according to the Tribune.

According to the EPA, “Congress enacted EPCRA in 1986 to establish requirements for federal, state and local governments, tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and 'community right-to-know' reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals."

Another complicating factor, the Tribune reported, is that those in Greeley didn’t know what constituted “beyond allowable limits.”

Bill Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association, expressed his opposition to the requirement in an interview with the Tribune: “What we’ve been able to determine, from Texas A&M, Kansas State and Colorado State, is that the numbers they (EPA) are using are grossly overestimated. It’s just a joke.”

Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, Ohio, and president of the National Pork Producers Council, also noted his frustration in a press release: “In sticking the agricultural community with this unworkable rule, EPA not only failed to provide any guidance to farmers on compliance with the new regulation or develop an adequate system to handle the volume of reports that would be filed, but it actively engaged in efforts that undermined the ability of farmers to comply with this new, stringent rule.”

Analysis: Livestock regulations upset environmentalists as well

Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun explains that the livestock emissions requirement irritates parties on both sides of the issue. Environmentalists criticize it as a Bush administration midnight regulation that essentially lets most farms off the hook, because it only affects a select number of them. The pork producers are on the other end of the spectrum, arguing that the rules are too stringent.

Wheeler makes another point: “While the two sides spar mainly over how to deal with letting the public know about potential human health effects of animal waste emissions, it’s worth noting that air emissions from chicken farms also adds to the Chesapeake Bay’s woes.”

Earthjustice is one of the environmentalist groups arguing that the regulations do not go far enough. “The Bush administration's last-minute rulemaking now exempts factory farms from filing these reports. Not surprisingly, the rule change was sought by the industry following successful litigation against factory farms that held them accountable for their widespread failure to comply with environmental laws.”

Earthjustice goes on to say that “an increasing body of scientific evidence shows that ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other factory farm emissions pose serious threats to human health and the environment.” Furthermore, “exposure to factory farm air pollution can cause respiratory illness, lung inflammation and increased vulnerability to asthma,” according to the organization.

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