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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

Despite EPA Objections, Large Livestock Farms Likely To Begin Reporting Air Pollution

Grant Gerlock
Harvest Public Media/File Photo
Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, may not be exempt from reporting when certain chemicals from their livestock pollute the air.

Large livestock farms likely will have to report high levels of two types of emissions as of Wednesday, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s last-minute effort to further delay a federal rule it’s been trying to modify for years.

The EPA tried to exempt most farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, from having to report emissions of two air pollutants — hydrogen sulfide and ammonia — that are considered hazardous.

Environmental groups, led by Waterkeepers Alliance, objected to the agency’s effort to exempt CAFOs from two laws that date back to the 1980s. The groups said in court documents that ample evidence showed mismanaged manure could lead to toxic releases of the chemicals. Afederal appeals court agreed in Apriland said the rule would go into effect November 15.

But the EPA requested more time to “review and include comments from the public” and “complete the development” of a simpler reporting form, according to agency spokesman Michael Abboud.

“EPA is continuing to work with the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) to manage the volume of calls from farmers,” Abboud says in a statement to Harvest Public Media. The NRC is responsible for handling reports of the potential pollutants into the air.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Waterkeeper Alliance says it is the “EPA’s responsibility to protect the public by ensuring information about these releases is disclosed — not to keep devising new legal strategies to help industry keep it secret.”

The appeals court had not ruled on the EPA’s request to delay the rule as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. At least one state agency, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, emailed various government employees and environmental groups Tuesday with an emissions reporting guidance form. North Carolina is one of the biggest hog-producing states in the U.S.

Erica Hunzinger contributed to this report.


Follow Amy Mayer on Twitter @agamyinames.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.


Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.