Two national farms groups told a federal court Monday that puzzled producers need more time to understand how to calculate the volume of gas released each day by their livestock.
The National Pork Producers and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association filed a brief with the D.C. Circuit Court supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s motion to put off the rule for three months.
“There continues to be significant confusion throughout the livestock industry with regard to these reporting requirements, especially among smaller producers who have less technical support,” wrote Pork Producers legal counsel Michael Formica in a court declaration.
The rule will require producers whose animals release at least 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period to register with the EPA and the Coast Guard’s National Response Center.
There is no generally accepted way to estimate emissions from decaying manure, according to the EPA, which said the rule was unnecessary and impractical.
The D.C. court, however, agreed with environmental groups that having the information on file could be useful to emergency responders.
The EPA was waiting Tuesday to see whether the D.C. court will finalize the reporting mandate or grant the agency more time to prepare producers. The EPA has released worksheets developed at universities to help farmers estimate emissions, but says there are too many climate, geographic and operational factors to say how many cows, pigs or chickens it takes to meet the reporting threshold.
The pork and poultry trade groups attached to their brief a letter signed Jan. 19 by 10 Democratic senators taking the EPA to task for not giving more guidance to producers.
The senators, who didn’t comment on whether the rule was necessary, urged the EPA to ask the court to delay the rule. The lawmakers said they were concerned unprepared farmers would be sued for not complying.
“In our view, the agency has been woefully late in rolling out guidance on this matter, and needs more time to ensure that our constituents, who face legal liability for untimely or inaccurate reporting, understand the reporting requirements,” the senators wrote.
The court ruled last year producers have to report manure emissions to comply with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as the Superfund law. The federal government can levy fines of up to $50,000 a day for not reporting emissions. The law also allows environmental groups to sue to enforce the law.
The Waterkeeper Alliance led a coalition of environmental groups that sued the EPA to force producers to report emissions. Efforts to obtain a comment from the organization Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The D.C. court has granted two previous delays. EPA filed a motion for a third stay Jan. 19. It told the court it would spend the time educating farmers and developing streamlined reporting forms.