CERCLA uncertainty ‘taken off farmers’ plates’
WASHINGTON — Time was running out. Two pieces of proposed new legislation — known as FARM and ACRE — faced a court-imposed deadline of May 1. At the same time, lawmakers struggled with an omnibus spending bill, which, if not enacted promptly, would again shut down the federal government.
FARM, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (S. 2421) and ACRE, the more recently introduced H.R. 5275, Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions, were each designed to protect poultry and animal farmers from the regulations outlined in CERCLA the decade-old Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
It requires entities releasing hazardous substances, like ships or factories, to notify the federal government for emergency response purposes only.
When the law was passed, EPA did not believe that reports on the routine release of low levels of ammonia from chicken houses, for instance, was included in the intent of the law.
The exemption for animal agriculture was successfully challenged in federal court by environmental organizations, thus establishing the May 1 deadline.
Though a deadline was in place, EPA had not been able to provide farmers with approved methods of determining those estimates.
Leaders of the nation’s agricultural industry pondered their opportunities. Both FARM and ACRE had attracted wide bi-partisan support in both houses.
The omnibus funding bill appeared, surprisingly to have something in it for everyone and seemed to be drawing support from both sides of the aisle. The order seemed to be: Expedite.
And its supporters did just that. FARM was attached to the spending bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law on March 23.
All told, an additional 36 Senators and 90 Representatives ultimately co-sponsored the bills.
Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware and Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland cosponsored the original legislation restoring agriculture’s longstanding exemption from CERCLA reporting.
The inclusion of a permanent CERCLA exemption in the omnibus bill achieves the same result as those House and Senate bills.
The new law does not create a new reporting exemption. It merely restores the CERCLA reporting requirements to where they were since 2008, and it does not change reporting requirements under a different federal law (the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, or EPCRA) that requires emissions reporting to state and local emergency response agencies.
“With the looming uncertainty of CERCLA reporting now taken off farmers’ plates, chicken growers can turn their focus back to producing an economical, safe and wholesome supply of food for the United States and the world,” said Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.