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Large Livestock Farms Won't Have To Report Air Pollution Until 2018

Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, may not be exempt from reporting when certain chemicals from their livestock pollute the air.
Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, may not be exempt from reporting when certain chemicals from their livestock pollute the air.

Story, headline updated Nov. 22 with ruling —A U.S. appeals court has agreed to the EPA's request for more time to implement the emissions-reporting requirement. The mandate will now go into effect on Jan. 22.

Original story from Nov. 15 — Large livestock farms may have to start reporting high levels of two types of emissions as of Wednesday, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s last-minute effort to further delay a federal rule it’s been trying to modify for years.

The EPA tried to exempt most farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, from having to report emissions of two air pollutants — hydrogen sulfide or ammonia — that are considered hazardous.

Environmental groups, led by Waterkeeper Alliance, objected to the agency’s effort to exempt CAFOs from two laws that date back to the 1980s. The groups said in court documents that ample evidence showed mismanaged manure could lead to toxic releases of the chemicals. A federal appeals court  agreed in April and said the rule would go into effect November 15.

But the EPA requested more time to “review and include comments from the public” and “complete the development” of a simpler reporting form, according to agency spokesman Michael Abboud.

“EPA is continuing to work with the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) to manage the volume of calls from farmers,” Abboud says in a statement to Harvest Public Media. The NRC is responsible for handling reports of the potential pollutants into the air.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Waterkeeper Alliance says it is the “EPA’s responsibility to protect the public by ensuring information about these releases is disclosed — not to keep devising new legal strategies to help industry keep it secret.”

The appeals court had not ruled on the EPA’s request to delay the rule as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. At least one state agency, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, emailed various government employees and environmental groups Tuesday with an emissions reporting guidance form. North Carolina is one of the biggest hog producing-states in the U.S.

Erica Hunzinger contributed to this report.

Follow Amy on Twitter: @agamyinames

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Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.