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No CERCLA or EPCRA Reporting Requirements for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste at Farms

Update June 4, 2019:  Reporting of air emissions from animal waste at farms is not required under EPCRA (or CERCLA).  U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule amending the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The amendments clarify that reporting of air emissions from animal waste at farms is not required under EPCRA.

The changes to emergency release reporting regulations reflect the existing relationship between EPCRA and CERCLA and provide consistency between the two environmental laws.  (See Update from March 2018 below for more information about the law that exempts air emissions from animal waste from reporting requirements under CERCLA.)

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Update December 2018:  On November 14, 2018, EPA published a proposed rule to amend the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This amendment proposes to add a reporting exemption for air emissions from animal waste at farms. EPA sought public comment on the Agency’s interpretation that these types of releases are not subject to EPCRA reporting, with the comment period ending December 14, 2018.  Stay tuned for word about a final rule.

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Update March 2018:  With H.R. 1625 being signed into law, farmers and ranchers do not need to report the air emissions from animal waste at their farms under CERCLA.  As for EPCRA reporting, the EPA interprets the phrase “used in routine agricultural operations” to include, for example, the handling and storage of waste for potential use as fertilizer, and therefore such activities are not subject to the reporting requirements under EPCRA.  So a farm would not have to report releases under EPCRA unless the farm is a CAFO or otherwise produces, uses or stores hazardous chemicals. The EPA intends to engage in rulemaking to clarify its interpretation of the EPCRA reporting requirements.

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History:  On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted farms from reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste. This final rule applied to:

  • Section 103 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and
  • Section 304 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), if the farms stable or confine fewer than a certain numbers of animals.

On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated this final rule. The DC Circuit Court ordered that farms must begin reporting these releases on November 15, 2017.  The court granted a couple of requests by the EPA to delay the reporting requirements for farms, and on February 1, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit announced a stay of the mandate for CERCLA/EPCRA reporting for livestock and poultry producers until May 1, 2018. 

For additional updates and answers to FAQs from the EPA on the CERCLA and EPCRA Reporting Requirements, you can go to the EPA's website.

You may also view our legal resources on this issue under the subheading "Environmental Issues" by clicking here.