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On the Not-So-Distant Horizon: CERCLA and EPCRA Reporting Requirements for Air Releases for Livestock Operators

Posted: November 21st, 2017

Authors: Kayla T. 

In a few short days, many of us will be sitting down to enjoy a nice turkey dinner, and unless you’re having a good hunting season, those turkeys are probably farm-raised.  In other farm-raised animal related news, there are some looming air emissions reporting requirements for livestock operators.  Although historically exempt from reporting hazardous substance air releases under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), farms releasing hazardous substances from animal waste will be required to submit these reports in the very near future.  On April 11, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals (Court) struck down U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) final rule which exempted most farms from these requirements.  In addition, on October 27, 2017, U.S. EPA issued preliminary guidance documents which outlined reporting obligations for livestock operators.

So, what is CERCLA and EPCRA?

CERCLA and EPCRA require facilities to report releases of hazardous substances that are equal to or greater than their reportable quantities (RQ) within any 24-hour period. Following a hazardous substance reportable release, a facility owner or operator must notify federal authorities under CERCLA and state and local authorities under EPCRA. The purpose of this requirement is to notify officials of potentially dangerous releases so that they can evaluate the need for a response action.  CERCLA and EPCRA also provide a reduced reporting requirement for “continuous releases” of hazardous substances that exceed the RQ.  A “continuous release” is defined as a release of a hazardous substance that is “continuous” and “stable in quantity and rate”.  U.S. EPA considers emissions from animal waste to be a continuous release.

What do I have to do if I’m a livestock operator?

First and foremost, you should begin quantifying air emissions of regulated substances to determine if they exceed the applicable RQ.  Typical hazardous substances associated with animal waste include ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, but there may be others at your farm.  In addition, there are some substances/scenarios that are exempt from reporting (e.g., normal application of fertilizers).

Currently no reporting is required since the Court has yet to issue its mandate enforcing the April 11, 2017 decision.  However, once the mandate is issued, farms will be required to submit the appropriate notifications and subsequent reports to the applicable federal, state, and/or local authorities for all substances which are deemed a “reportable release”.  U.S. EPA has posted guidance on their website related to the livestock CERCLA/EPCRA reporting requirements.

Stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about the specific requirements or how to get started on your air emissions estimates please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 610.933.5246, extension 143!


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