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Home » Environment » EPA’s Holiday Gift to Big Ag
This Christmas season those who play naughty received an early gift from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On December 21st the EPA announced a proposed rule change that would exempt large livestock operators from the need to report releases of hazardous substances to the air when they come from animal waste. Under the proposed rules, they would no longer need to disclose hazards like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide to local, state and federal agencies. The EPA argues that this approach is “better” for reporting hazardous contamination because farms are burdened with current reporting requirements. But in a recent response, Ed Hopkins, Director of the Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program wrote, "Once again Bush's EPA is poised to put polluters before public health."

EPA’s Holiday Gift to Big Ag

This Christmas season those who play naughty received an early gift from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On December 21st the EPA announced a proposed rule change that would exempt large livestock operators from the need to report releases of hazardous substances to the air when they come from animal waste. Under the proposed rules, they would no longer need to disclose hazards like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide to local, state and federal agencies.

The EPA argues that this approach is “better” for reporting hazardous contamination because farms are burdened with current reporting requirements.

But in a recent response, Ed Hopkins, Director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program wrote, “Once again Bush’s EPA is poised to put polluters before public health. EPA’s new proposal would let factory farms off the hook for releasing hazardous chemicals into our air- exempting these large livestock operations from even the most basic of pollution laws.”

Factory farms dump 500 million tons of animal waste per year, pollution that leaches into rivers and streams, fouls the air and spreads disease. According to Virginia Tech’s, research air pollution from ammonia is a primary concern as ammonia binds to other air particles, forming particulates that can penetrate deep into the lungs.

As Hopkins writes, “Despite the fact that some of these factory farms release more ammonia than large industrial facilities, the EPA is set to give them free reign to pollute.”

Although the EPA released a report detailing the extent of ammonia releases from animal waste, (opens pdf) it has actually allowed some of those toxic releases to continue. According to News Inferno, the EPA let thousands of factory style farms escape penalties in 2006 in exchange for information about their pollutants. Rather than hold them accountable for foul air and water from excrement, EPA signed agreements with 2,681 animal feeding operations and waved federal fines of $27,000 a day for violations. For EPA, these agreements were the most “efficient way” to get the data that would determine whether animal feeding operations comply with air emission laws.

With the recent, proposed rule change, EPA would only want information on animal waste if it creates an emergency situation. As they write in their press release “EPA is proposing to eliminate these reports for air releases from animal waste at farms because it is unnecessary to respond to such reports.”

But with this proposed rule change, Sierra Club’s Hopkins believes, “There is no way we minimize exposure and protect public health if factory farms are not required to report their emissions.”

Indeed, it seems that this Christmas the EPA has given the crappiest gift of all to corporate owners and the public alike.

About Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel

Comments

  1. Former Ag Teacher says:

    This article is a sad example of journalism. The author intends to influence the reader with one sided, distorted and incomplete bits of information.

    For instance, in the agreement signed with farms, EPA got the producers to pay for, and allow data collection to learn what size of farm (if any) would trigger reporting thresholds. The producers didn’t have to do that and EPA wouldn’t have been able to come up with any useful data for more than a decade without the cooperation of the farmers.

    Another instance is the implication emmissions from farms are somehow worse than from some other types of businesses. Did you know that municipal waste water treatment systems also release ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, the same chemicals that farmers are villified for in this article. That is right, every time you flush, you are contribing to air pollution.l

    The modern Sierra Club is operated much like any other corporation. Their goal is no longer conservation. Their method is to generate controversy that they can use in convincing urban dwellers to open their wallet to donate. Their goal is government ownership of all the land possible, and government regulation of what ever private land the government doesn’t own.

    Don’t donate to the Sierra Club. The Izzak Walton League is a much more deserving organization.

  2. Thom Katt says:

    Ha ha. EPA finally figures out poop isn’t a hazadous material and the Sierra Club gets all whiney about it.

    I wonder if Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel is smart enough to figure out that her poo is almost the same as pig, cow and chicken poo since she eats the same stuff.

  3. nosmokes says:

    Animal manure in the volumes and concentrations produced by CAFOs which also contains large amounts of synthetic hormones and antibiotics does indeed qualify under any reasonable criteria as hazardous/toxic waste and these factory torture and feeding installations are a threat to human health. Public Health officials have warned against them, The AMA has warned against them and so have many other health agencies. They pollute ground and drinking water, soil and the air. I’m not sure what Mr Katt’s objection to the Sierra Club is other than he doessn’tcare for their politics. That’s fine, but he should just just say so instead of tossing a strawman into the argument and misrepresenting the organization.