cercla AND epcra rEPORTING
CERCLA and EPCRA were enacted by Congress to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills. Neither of these laws were intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom odor emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life. To make this clear, in 2008, EPA finalized a rule to clarify that farms are exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, specifically, were also exempt from EPCRA reporting. Activists sued the EPA, forcing a bad court decision in 2017 that resulted in upward of 200,000 livestock operations being put on the hook for reporting low-level odor emissions to the government. To add insult to injury, it is practically impossible for the vast majority of cattle producers to calculate the odor emissions that need to be reported with any degree of certainty.
Even the people who receive these odor reports do not want them and have said that receiving them would actually hurt their ability to respond to emergencies. The National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, which represents state and local emergency response commissions, notes the EPCRA odor reports "are of no value to [Local Emergency Planning Committees] and first responders" and that the reports "are generally ignored because they do not relate to any particular event." The U.S. Coast Guard, who receives the CERCLA odor reports, stated that early calls from farmers have "increased [initial notifications] from approximately 100-150 calls per day to over 1,000 phone calls per day." This influx has negatively impacted the Coast Guard's ability to coordinate responses for true emergencies. The bottom line is CERCLA and EPCRA were designed by Congress to deal with toxic waste spills and chemical explosions, not odors from a cattle ranch or feedlot.
Update and Next Steps
NCBA’s successful advocacy campaign led to a change in the law to protect livestock producers from the onerous CERCLA reporting requirements. As of March 2018, farms across the country are exempt from a law originally written to target toxic waste sites, not cattle ranches and feedlots. As a follow-up to the success we’ve had in eliminating CERCLA reporting for livestock producers, in late 2018 the Trump Administration proposed an EPCRA exemption for farms. NCBA filed robust comments in support of this exemption and we look forward to continued engagement on this issue to achieve further regulatory relief for cattle producers across the country.
* Dec. 14, 2018 - NCBA's Official Comments Re: EPCRA Reporting Requirements
* Jan. 9, 2018 - Video: Now That's Some Bull: (Non) Toxic Waste Edition