EPA to begin studying emissions from feeding operations

WASHINGTON - EPA has just gotten approval to take the next important step to gather air emissions data from agricultural animal feeding operations (AFOs) and to ensure compliance with environmental laws. This step consists of certain AFOs voluntarily taking part in a nationwide monitoring study to evaluate their air emissions.
calendar icon 24 August 2006
clock icon 3 minute read

"The AFOs agreements bring us closer to ensuring clean air compliance across our nation," said Granta Y Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This innovative approach will provide the best available science to guide EPA's decision making in a way that is good for the environment, good for agriculture and good for the American people."

EPA began to realize in the late 1990's that it didn't have sufficient air emissions data to determine potential regulatory requirements for AFOs under the Clean Air Act (CAA), so to resolve the situation it began discussions with AFOs owners in 2001.

These discussions led to a Jan. 31, 2005 EPA Federal Register notice offering individual AFOs an opportunity to voluntarily sign-- by Aug. 12, 2005-- a consent agreement committing them to conduct a nationwide study to monitor and get a better handle on the nature of their air emissions. This consent agreement also resolves certain air violations under the Clean Air Act, as well as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) – also known as Superfund – and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) just approved the two final voluntary agreements, making a total of 2,568, representing 1,856 swine, 468 dairy, 204 egg-laying, and 40 broiler chicken (meat-bird) operations. These 2,568 agreements represent 6,267 farms (an AFO can include more than one farm). Now the industry-led monitoring survey can proceed; it is expected to begin this winter.

Within 18 months following the monitoring study's conclusion, EPA will evaluate all data and publish emission-estimating methods for AFOs. These methods will allow AFOs to estimate their emissions and comply with applicable federal regulatory requirements as appropriate. This approach will achieve compliance with environmental laws much faster than any other enforcement mechanism.

As an incentive for AFOs to participate, EPA agreed not to bring certain enforcement actions against participating AFOs during the course of the monitoring survey; however, all participants must pay a penalty that is based on the number of animals maintained at the operation and must assure compliance with the CAA, CERCLA, and EPCRA once EPA publishes the emissions methodology.

The EAB is an impartial, independent body that acts as the final decision maker on administrative appeals under all major environmental statutes that EPA administers.

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