Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Federal court rejects Bush-era rule exempting animal feeding operations from pollution reporting

A federal court on Tuesday "tossed a George W. Bush-era rule exempting animal feeding operations from certain pollution reporting requirements," Amanda Reilly reports for Greenwire. "A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with green groups that lawmakers never intended to give U.S. EPA the authority to exclude those operations. The court also found that manure storage at livestock operations poses more than a 'theoretical' risk to public health."

Judge Stephen Williams, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, wrote for the court that Congress didn't "give the agency carte blanche to ignore the statute whenever it decides the reporting requirements aren't worth the trouble," Reilly writes.

The rule, adopted by EPA at the end of the Bush administration in December 2008, exempted "all animal feeding operations from reporting releases of hazardous air pollution from animal waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act," Reilly writes. "Typically, facilities covered by CERCLA have to report discharges of pollutants above certain thresholds to a National Response Center. EPA's rule also exempted all but large concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, from reporting emissions to local and state emergency officials under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act."

The Waterkeeper Alliance and the Humane Society of the United States led a lawsuit by environmental groups "arguing that the rule put citizens at risk of breathing harmful ammonia and hydrogen sulfide," Reilly writes. EPA "said that requiring producers to report under CERCLA would be burdensome and fruitless because 'local response agencies are very unlikely to respond' to reports of pollution." There also was concern that EPA lacked information to measure emissions.

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