Court Orders Farm Air Emissions Rule to be Sent Back to EPA

USAgNet - 02/21/2022

A federal District Court judge remanded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for revision regulations that exempt livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities routine emissions from their farms. Environmental and animal-rights groups in 2018 brought a lawsuit against the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which Congress approved with overwhelming bipartisan support after a federal appeals court rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

Known as the “Superfund Law,” CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component. The appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups, reports the National Pork Producers Council.

In implementing the law, EPA also clarified that farmers did not need to report routine emissions to state and local first responders under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) – an adjunct to CERCLA. First responders have been clear they consider such reports unnecessary and burdensome. Activist groups sued to have the FARM Act regulations vacated and to force farms to immediately begin reporting emissions. In August 2021, in a secret backroom deal days after the court granted NPPC’s and other livestock groups’ request to intervene in the activists’ lawsuit, EPA met and agreed to settle the lawsuit with the activist groups.

EPA provided no notice to affected livestock farmers about the settlement until it asked the court in November to order the rule returned to the agency to be redrafted. Under the court’s order, farmers will not be required to take any action until EPA completes a new rulemaking.

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