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EPA Considers Requiring Animal Waste Air Emissions Reports 

In 1984, thousands of people were killed within a few days when 40 tons of a toxic chemical called methyl isocyanate was accidentally released in Bhopal, India. Thousands more were left with significant health issues. In response, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed by congress in 1986 to ensure the United States never suffered from similar circumstances, and the oversight was delegated to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPCRA requires entities who handle Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) to have a plan for what they will do in emergencies. Accidental releases are required to be reported within 24 hours, as well as an annual report of all releases.

In 2018, some people began questioning if farmers and ranchers were required to report their animal waste air emissions. In response, there was a strong consensus from first responders across the nation that the issue was best handled at a local level between producers and the local responders. In June of 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule that explicitly listed an exception under EPCRA for air emissions from animal waste. Administrator Wheeler said the rule provided clarity and allowed producers to focus on protecting the public and feeding the nation, not routine animal waste emissions. 

However, the EPA under Administrator Regan has recently decided to reexamine the issue. On February 14, 2022, the D.C. District Court granted the EPA’s motion to remand the final rule without vacatur, which means the 2019 exception is temporarily left in place, but the EPA is not bound to it. They have since released Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that is asking for feedback about the issue. Specifically, they hope to get feedback about five general categories: health impacts; implementation challenges; costs and benefits; small farm definition and potential reporting exemption; and national report on animal waste air emissions. After receiving comments and examining the issue, they will decide whether or not to eliminate the exception for animal waste air under EPCRA. If you wish to comment on the proposal, please go to the issue’s federal register page and click the green “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT” button at the top right corner of the page. Comment submission is open until February 15, 2024. 

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