(Update, Dec. 4. The federal court has issued a decision that producers have until Jan. 22 to report their emissions. See related article.)
(Update: The EPA has issued an update, stating that farms with continuous releases of livestock emissions do not have to submit their initial notification until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issues its order, or mandate, enforcing the court’s earlier decision. No reporting is necessary until the mandate is issued.
EPA will update its website once the mandate is issued and as new information becomes available.)
SALEM, Ohio — Livestock farmers could be just hours away from a federal regulation that will require them to report to the EPA on how much emissions their farms release, in the form of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.
As it originally stood, farms that exceed the federal threshold limit for emissions were required to file a report beginning Wednesday, Nov. 15.
The requirement is part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.
The EPA exempted most farms from reporting their emissions in a 2008 ruling that would have exempted farms that have fewer animals than a concentrated feeding operation. However, a number of concerned citizen groups challenged the exemption and a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling in April 2017, struck down the exemption.
The EPA has asked the court for an extension on the Nov. 15 deadline, but unless one is granted, farmers will need to determine their livestock emissions, and if they’re at or above the daily allowable threshold, they’ll need report those amounts to the government.
The threshold for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide is 100 pounds in a 24-hour period. If a farm releases either or both gasses at 100 or more pounds in 24 hours, a report will need to be filed, according to the EPA.
The deadline and the requirement have raised many questions for livestock farmers, including what exactly is an emission, and how do you calculate livestock emissions.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers from the EPA. Updates will be made as new information becomes available.
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How do I report my livestock emissions, and to whom?
When a farm has air releases from animal waste that is equal or greater than the threshold of 100 pounds, the farm owner must follow a process called “continuous release reporting.”
First, you need to notify the National Response Center by email or phone and identify your reportable release as part of an “initial continuous release notification.” The email address is NRC-CERCLA-EPCRA-REPORT@uscg.mil, and the phone number is 800-424-8802, option 2.
Farm owners must also submit an initial written notification to the EPA Regional Office, and one year later, they must submit an additional follow-up notification.
What substances need to be reported?
Typical hazardous substances associated with animal wastes include ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Both ammonia and hydrogen sulfide have a reportable quantity of 100 lbs. If a farm releases ammonia and/or hydrogen sulfide in amounts greater than or equal to the reportable quantity (100 lbs) within a 24-hour period, then the farm owner or operator must notify the NRC.
How do I estimate or calculate how much gas my animals emit?
Some farms that raise animals will have reportable releases of ammonia and/or hydrogen sulfide (i.e. release of ≥ 100 lbs in a 24-hour period) from animal wastes. These resources may assist farmers in estimating emissions.
However, the EPA says that it “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.”
CERCLA section 103 allows “continuous releases” to be reported in ranges. 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.
Do I have to report when I apply fertilizers or pesticides to crops?
No, farm owners/operators do not need to report the normal application of fertilizers (including normal application of manure as a fertilizer) or the handling, storage or application of pesticide products registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). However, under CERCLA section 103, any spills or accidents involving these substances must be immediately reported to the NRC when they meet or exceed the reportable quantity.
Do I have to report if I am participating in the EPA’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement?
At this time, farm owners/operators in compliance with their Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement (70 FR 4958) are not expected to report air releases of hazardous substances from animal wastes under CERCLA and EPCRA. Per their Agreement, participants must report air releases of hazardous substances equal to or exceeding the hazardous substances’ reportable quantities under CERCLA when EPA completes the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study.
Who do I notify if I need to report?
You must immediately notify the NRC when you have a release of any CERCLA hazardous substance at or above its reportable quantity within any 24-hour period. However, there is an exception for the normal application of fertilizers or the handling, storage or application of pesticide products as described above.
Do I have to notify the NRC every time my emissions exceed the reportable quantity in a 24-hour period?
No. If your farm has releases that are continuous and stable in quantity and rate, you can follow a streamlined reporting process known as “continuous release reporting.” EPA considers emissions from animal waste to be continuous and stable in quantity and rate, and therefore eligible for this streamlined reporting option.
If I have multiple facilities (i.e., farms), can I make one notification that addresses all of my facilities?
You can submit information for multiple facilities in one email (NRC-CERCLA-EPCRA-REPORT@uscg.mil) notification. List the name and location of each farm, as well as the associated name(s) of hazardous substance(s) released.
You will receive an automatic response email from the NRC with a single identification number (CR-ERNS) for your farm(s). Include the CR-ERNS number on the follow-up written notification report that goes to your EPA Regional Office. The single CR-ERNS number provided should be used for each facility included in the email. However, if you are calling the NRC, then you can only provide one report per phone call.