Spending Bill Exempts Animal Farms from Air Emission Reporting

March 23, 2018 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Update: On May 2, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the mandate vacating the 2008 final rule.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Omnibus Bill), signed into law, on March 23, 2018, has exempted the reporting of "air emissions from animal waste at a farm" under CERCLA. This exemption is included in Title XI of the Act, called the “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act” or “FARM Act." 

This exemption was enacted because of a decision on April 11, 2017, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that vacated an EPA final rule that had been in place for nine years. The rule—called the CERCLA/EPCRA Administrative Reporting Exemption for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste at Farms—exempted most farms from CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements for air releases from animal waste. The court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its statutory authority in granting the exemptions. The court order subjected approximately 44,000 new commercial animal farms to reporting requirements the EPA had characterized as "costly and burdensome."

The court had delayed enforcement of its mandate through multiple stays, issued to allow EPA more time to write new guidance for the new reporting requirements. The EPA issued its interim guidance on October 25, 2017, and sought additional public input. The latest stay was granted February 1, 2018, and was set to expire May 1. This new law means that animal farms will remain exempt from the reporting requirements even after the court issues its final mandate vacating the 2008 rule.