EPA Proposes Feedlot Toxics Release Reporting Exemption

January 2, 2008

EPA has proposed exempting farms from a law protecting the public from toxic air pollutants. Environmental groups have objected.

Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986 following the Bhopal toxic mass-casualty in India. Since it was politically impossible to regulate toxic emissions by chemical plants, the law mandated that companies disclose to the public the type and amount of their toxic emissions. One part of this law is known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a basic tool for environmental reporters.

EPA says the exemption it proposes applies principally to releases of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases from manure storage pits and lagoons on farms. On some farm operations, emissions of these gases reach the reportable-quantity thresholds of EPCRA.

One issue the proposal is sure to raise is the size of farms involved - for example, whether a "farm" is a large, industrial-scale confined feeding operation.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) proposed enacting such an exemption for feedlots into law in 2004, but the proposal went nowhere.