EPA seeks 90-day extension on starting CERCLA
WASHINGTON (Jan. 30, 2018) — Perhaps concerned in the wake of the federal government shutdown, the Environmental Protection Agency has asked for a 90 day extension on implementing what is known as CERCLA, federal regulations requiring animal and poultry farmers to report toxic emissions from manure on their farming operations.
CERCLA — pronounced Sir-Kla — was slated to become operational on Jan 22 even as Congress tried desperately to reopen the government which had, to all intents and purposes, closed at midnight on Friday, Jan. 19.
If the U.S. Court of Appeals approves EPA’s extension request, which had been filed on Jan.19, CERCLA would
face a deadline of April 23. But even that may not be the end of the story.
Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland ag legal specialist who has been the point man for Maryland famrers on the complexities of these federal regulations, confirmed the EPA’s attempt to stall the program.
The agency may have breathed a sigh of relief. Goeringer said that he had been informed earlier that even though the EPA would be closed in the eent of a shutdown, the agency would provide enough manpower to answer the telephone and accept e-mails from farmers needing to register under CERCLA requirements.
The delay may be beneficial. How those emissions are to be measured and the levels at which they have to be reported apparently have not yet been established.
So, what farmers will need to do is simply register their livestock and poultry farms with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Resource Center.
For learning how and what to report, and for other information, farmers are advised to contact their county ag agents, consult the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association or visit the website of the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. at www.dpichicken.org and click on “CERCLA Reporting” at the top of the screen, or under “Resources.”
Here’s the background:
Under issue here are two pieces of federal legislation, CERCLA and EPCRA — the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, often referred to as “Superfund,” and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act.
They require facilities, including agricultural operations, to report releases of hazardous substances that are equal to or greater than previously established limits within any 24-hour period.
For poultry and animal farmers, those “hazardous substances” are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide rising from manure. The measurement of those emissions, obviously, would depend on the size and number of animals or chickens on the farm.
Notably, in 2008, the EPA developed an exemption from the reporting requirements from CERCLA and EPCRA for all animal feeding operations but required larger operations (CAFOs) to continue reporting under EPCRA.
Waterkeepers and other environmental and animal welfare groups challenged the exemption and in April, a U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the environmentalists and gave EPA a Nov 15, 2017 deadline to start requiring all animal and poultry farmers to submit telephone and written reports. EPA filed for an extension to move the reporting deadline to Jan. 22, 2018. It was that deadline that loomed before the EPA filed its request for the 90-day extension.
Goeringer said that the ruling could have major implications across the country, not just in Maryland.
“As the court and EPA have pointed out,” Goeringer said, “measuring releases from an animal feeding operation is not always convenient, and currently, there is no clear resolution on how best to monitor them.”