Currently farms must report to federal, state and local officials when emissions of hazardous substances like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide exceed certain levels. In a little-noticed proposed rule change published in the Federal Register on December 28, when Congress was on its winter recess, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed eliminating the reporting requirement.
EPA argued that the requirement created an unnecessary burden for farms and that the emission release reports weren't acted on at the federal level, anyway. The public comment period for the proposed change closes March 27.
According to EPA hearing testimony to Congress, an estimated 140 animal-feeding operations reported ammonia releases exceeding the 100 pound-per-day level in the 2006 fiscal year, and an estimated 130 operations in the 2007 fiscal year. Some facilities regularly exceeded the reporting levels.
There are no federal laws or regulations capping release of these substances from animal waste so EPA critics argue that the reporting requirements are the only way for communities to know what they're being exposed to.
But a spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association contended that the Superfund law and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, both of which contain reporting requirements, are not intended to cover livestock manure.