The rush to report emissions

The rush to report emissions
Marg Land
November 15, 2017
As I write this, only a few days are left before livestock operations need to submit their air emissions data to the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). All poultry and livestock facilities that are likely to emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period are required to report their initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center.

As most of you know, back in 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a final rule exempting all agricultural operations from reporting air releases from animal waste under CERCLA. But, as always seems to happen these days, the exemption was challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals and was struck down in April 2017.

So, how do you know if you need to report? How do you know if your operation is releasing 100 pounds or more of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period?

While EPA officials have provided guidance on the agency’s website, including a list of resources for estimating emissions and some complicated-looking worksheets, even they’re not too sure.

“EPA 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,” states the agency’s guidance document. “EPA understands farmers may need to report their releases in broad ranges.”

Well, that was … unhelpful.

University of Illinois Extension livestock engineers decided to tackle the problem and determined, in most cases, it would be ammonia emissions rather than hydrogen sulfide that would trigger the 100-pound per day threshold. They put together a handy table, which shows different manure management situations and how many animals or birds an operation could have before it needed to report. It is available at

Let’s say you’ve established you need to report. How do you do so?

Luckily, the requirements are simple. You make a phone call and send a written follow-up report within 30 days. After that, reports are required on an annual basis. And you don’t even need to be too exact about the location of the farm.

“The NRC does not require personally identifiable information, such as an address for a private residence,” states the EPA. “As an alternative, a generic location [such as name of city/town and state] may be sufficient.”

Normal applications of fertilizer, manure or pesticide products don’t need to be reported. But any spills or accidents involving them must be if they exceed the reportable quantity. And, if you participated in the EPA’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement in 2008, you don’t have to report.

Clear as mud, right?

Of course, you should expect all of this to change in the future. “Livestock and poultry farmers should know this issue is evolving daily,” says Richard Gates, an Extension livestock engineer with the University of Illinois.

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