Update on air emissions reporting for CAFOs under EPCRA

Animal waste is a source of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide releases to the air. These are substances that, when released into the environment above certain quantities, trigger notification responsibilities under federal regulations.

Animal waste (manure, digestive emissions and urea) is a source of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide releases to the air. These are substances that, when released into the environment above certain quantities, trigger notification responsibilities under federal regulations.

In January 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the raw data from the National Air Emissions Monitoring (NAEM) study and released a request for any additional emissions data from other research projects. The NAEM study, established to address the lack of scientific data on air emissions from livestock facilities, was established in 2006 by a voluntary Air Compliance Agreement between the EPA and the pork, dairy, egg and broiler industries. Livestock producers have provided the financial support for the NAEM study so that emissions data can be collected at select sites to: 1) accurately assess emissions from livestock operations and compile a database for estimation of emission rates, and 2) promote a national consensus for emissions-estimation methods/procedures from livestock operations. The EPA has 18 months to summarize the NAEM data and release factors for estimating emissions from livestock operations. Farms will then need to recalculate their estimated emissions and resubmit to local and state emergency planners if they exceed the reporting threshold or if there is a significant change from a previous reporting.

In December 2008, the EPA published a final rule that exempted all large CAFOs from responsibility of federal reporting of emissions from livestock waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). However, the same rule continued a previously existing reporting requirement under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) aka SARA Title III program. It is important to note that producers who participated in the EPA Air Emissions Consent Agreement do not need to report their emissions under EPCRA until the NAEM study is complete.

Under this final rule that went into effect on January 20, 2009, all large CAFOs were required to notify state and local emergency response officials if their estimated emissions of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide exceed 100 pounds during any 24-hour period. Failure to report a reportable emission is a violation of the law that could result in fines and possible criminal charges. It is impossible to broadly assess individual liability or predict the conditions under which enforcement would occur. Detailed reporting information can be found online.

Because livestock operations are exempt from federal reporting, they are not required to do the one year anniversary report normally required under CERCLA. However, an annual reassessment needs to be conducted and a follow up report to local and state agencies is needed if there is a statistically significant change in the upper bound emission level, or if better data become available that indicate a different good faith estimate is more accurate, likely when the analysis of the NAEM study is complete. Producers will need to report if there is a change in ownership, person in charge, sensitive populations or ecosystems.

If there is a change in the source or composition of the release, it needs to be treated as a new release requiring telephone notification followed by a written report.  

If there is a statistically significant single episode increase in emissions (above the upper bound normal range reported), then telephone notification must be made immediately, followed by a written report within 30 days.

If producers want to change the upper bound trigger, they can submit a report describing the new normal range and reason for the change.

If the CAFO is new and has not yet reported, an emissions estimate needs to be calculated. If 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide are emitted in any 24-hour period, you must give telephone notification to your local and state authorities and follow up within 30 days with a written report to both local and state authorities. Detailed reporting information can be found online.

While there is no way to determine the actual ammonia or hydrogen sulfide released from your farm, there are several calculators available to help you estimate emissions. The EPA is currently summarizing data from the NAEM study which should give us a better understanding of actual farm emissions and provide more accurate estimation calculators.

For more information, including how to estimate ammonia or hydrogen sulfide emissions, contact Faith Cullens by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), at 989-224-5249 or visit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website.

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