Under pressure from agriculture industry lobbyists and lawmakers from agricultural states, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to drop requirements that factory farms report their emissions of toxic gases, despite findings by the agency's scientists that the gases pose a health threat.
The EPA acknowledges that the emissions can pose a threat to people living and working nearby, but it says local emergency responders don't use the reports, making them unnecessary. But local air-quality agencies, environmental groups and lawmakers who oppose the rule change say the reports are one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce.
Opponents of the rule change say agriculture lobbyists orchestrated a campaign to convince the EPA that the reports are not useful and misrepresented the effort as reflecting the views of local officials. They say the plan to drop the reporting requirement is emblematic of a broader effort by the Bush-era EPA to roll back federal pollution rules.
The EPA requirement that farms report large emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal manure has been on the books since the 1980s. The EPA does not set limits for the releases; it merely requires that farms disclose emissions over certain levels. Local public health officials say that if people in an area started getting sick with symptoms pointing to emissions, knowing who was reporting big releases of the gases would be most helpful.
"Every major air pollution regulation that affects the agriculture industry has been weakened or delayed by this administration," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents local and state air-quality agencies. "These are not inconsequential pollutants. In large concentrations, they kill people."
The rule change would eliminate ammonia emissions reporting for big animal-feeding operations such as Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Ore., where waste from tens of thousands of dairy cows releases more than 15,000 pounds of ammonia into the atmosphere each day, according to the EPA.
RLCC: Huge, factory, animal farms are often a serious problem. It isn't the way God intended us to raise our food.
CommonDreams.org from on February 26, 2008, 9:14amby