Rule Focuses on Hazardous Waste, Not Animal Waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 12 announced a final rule providing an administrative reporting exemption for air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms.

This rule will enable response authorities to better focus their attention on hazardous substance releases that require a response, while reducing reporting burdens on America's farms. Notifications must still be made to response authorities when hazardous substances are released to the air from sources other than animal waste (for example, ammonia tanks), and when hazardous substances are released to soil and water.

Administrative exemptions from particular notification requirements are authorized under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Under the Federal National Contingency Plan (NCP) regulations, farms and other facilities are required to report any releases of hazardous substances above an EPA-established level to the Coast Guard National Response Center and state and local emergency response authorities. However, EPA has never initiated a response based upon a notification of a hazardous substance release to the air from animal waste at farms. A number of states and localities have also indicated that they do not expect to take response actions as a result of a notification of releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms. Because of these findings, EPA is providing a full exemption to the reporting requirement under CERCLA and a limited exemption to the reporting requirement under EPCRA for releases of hazardous substances to the air from animal waste at farms.

The limited exemption under EPCRA resulted from EPA receiving comments on the proposed rule from state and local officials indicating that, although they did not expect to respond to notifications of air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms, some still wished to receive notifications from large concentrated animal feeding operations. EPA has addressed these comments by requiring large CAFOs to continue submitting emergency notification reports under EPCRA.

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