Compliance, Enforcement of New EPA Rules Problematic

Rules about emissions from livestock operations not very sensible.

There are regulations that make sense. Then there are regulations that just don't.


The latest from EPA, which arguably has made any number of inexplicable decisions, has me scratching my head and the National Pork Producers filing a lawsuit.


I am talking about the new regulation on confined animal operations which require notifying community emergency responders when you have a "release" of more than 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide or ammonia.


The idea, state EPA officials told me, is to allow local authorities notice of something that needs to be cleaned up. They pointed out at the same time that they were successful in exempting small farm operations from the rule. It applies only to relatively large operations.


Well, I guess you have to be grateful for what you get. But the rule is still nuts.


How do you measure? Can you tie some kind of gauge to animal's rear ends? Maybe stick a big sensor of some kind on top of the feedlot mill and have it shoot out test beams? Maybe it could also measure wind velocity, direction, temperature, relative humidity, inversion potential and other things that might affect releases and their rate and direction of travel. That wouldn't cost much.


And what actions are the emergency responders supposed to initiate when they arrive? We aren't talking about anything that can be contained and wiped up. We're talking about a toot here and a toot there wafting off on the breeze. It would vary, of course, with ration content, humidity, temperature and a dozen other factors.


That said, there are "estimators" at and that are designed to try to help dairies and cattle and hog producers figure out how to be in compliance. The fines for not being in compliance are huge – up to $32,000 per day.


What scares me is this could get worse. There's been a lot of denial that the next move could be a tax on the methane "emitted" from the rear ends of cattle and horses. I agree that would be a tad far-fetched. But it looks to me like we're already marching in that direction.

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