Factory Farms and Air Emissions
Recent actions by the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration have exempted big livestock farms from reporting air emissions. The moves follow a decade-long push by the livestock industry for exemption and leave neighbors of large-scale operations in the dark about what they’re inhaling. If that weren’t enough, environmental advocates warn that the failure to monitor those emissions makes it even harder to assess the climate effects of large-scale agriculture.
Carrie Apfel, an attorney for Earthjustice who is leading a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency by a coalition of environmental and animal-welfare organizations, says the exemption indicates “further denial of the impact that these [emissions] are having, whether it’s on climate or whether it’s on public health.”
The EPA declined a request for comment on the consequences of CAFO emissions for human health or the environment.
This rule was signed despite evidence showing that the toxic substances produced by factory farms are harmful to the health of farm workers and nearby residents who breathe them in. Sudden exposure to these substances was shown to be lethal to factory farm workers in one study. Prolonged exposure to lower levels of these substances, meanwhile, has been shown to cause headaches, nausea, and other symptoms.
Factory farms were previously obligated to report releases of large quantities of hazardous substances to the National Response Center within 24 hours. In March, President Donald Trump signed the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which exempted factory farms from reporting emissions stemming from animal waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This new rule extends this exemption to the EPCRA.
“This proposed rule maintains consistency between the emergency release notification requirements of EPCRA and CERCLA in accordance with the statutory text, framework, and legislative history of EPCRA, and is consistent with the Agency’s prior regulatory actions,” states the EPA.