Court sides with livestock producers

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WASHINGTON – The National Pork Producers Council recently applauded a federal court decision to dismiss challenges to the validity of air emissions agreements between the Environmental Protection Agency and livestock and poultry operations.
The so-called air consent agreements protect animal feeding operations from agency enforcement actions for past air emissions violations, as well as for violations that might occur while the agency conducts a monitoring study of emissions from farms.
Agreements. Nearly 2,600 animal feeding operations, including 1,856 hog operations, signed the agreements. The council worked with Environmental Protection Agency to craft agreements protecting pork producers while allowing the agency to promulgate air emissions standards for farms.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed environmental groups’ petitions for review of the agreements “because exercises of EPA’s enforcement discretion are not reviewable by this court.”
The groups argued that the agreements were rules disguised as enforcement actions and that Environmental Protection Agency did not follow proper rulemaking procedures. They believe animal feeding operations should be forced to comply more quickly with existing federal air emissions statutory requirements.
The court disagreed.
Court ruling. The court said because the Clean Air Act and others apply only to emissions above specified levels, Environmental Protection Agency cannot enforce the statutory and regulatory requirements without determining an animal feeding operation’s emissions.

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