The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today gave the Environmental Protection Agency until at least May 1 to prepare farms to register their livestock as sources of hazardous gases.
The order granting the stay was signed by Judges Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee, and Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee.
The stay, the third granted by the court at the EPA’s request, delays a mandate for farmers to report emissions from decaying manure under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund law.
Factories and vessels covered by the act must report chemical leaks and spills to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center. The EPA sought to exempt livestock emissions on the grounds that decomposing manure isn’t an emergency. Environmental groups sued, and the D.C. court agreed in April that the information could be useful to emergency responders.
The EPA has repeatedly asked for time to inform producers about the pending mandate, provide guidance on calculating emissions and develop a reporting form tailored for agriculture.
The court had previously granted stays in August and November. The National Pork Producers Council and U.S. Egg & Poultry Association filed briefs supporting EPA’s motion. The trade groups said that farmers were still confused about the mandate and at risk of running afoul of the law. Failing to report could result in $50,000-a-day fines. The law allows private groups to file federal lawsuits alleging noncompliance.
Farms with livestock that emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period will have to report. The EPA, in an effort to ease the requirement, says farmers will be able to register their animals as continuously releasing gas, rather than make daily reports.
There is no generally accepted way to estimate emissions from manure, which varies based on seasons, climate, geography and farm operations.
The environmental groups that sued the EPA to bring farmers under the Superfund law did not file a response to EPA’s motion for more time. According to the EPA, the groups, led by the Waterkeeper Alliance, did not object to the stay in a written statement to the agency.