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CERCLA and EPCRA Reporting Requirements for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste at Farms

Updates

On March 23, 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Omnibus Bill), was signed into law. Title XI of the Omnibus Bill, called the “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act” or “FARM Act” exempts the reporting of “air emissions from animal waste at a farm” under CERCLA. When the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issues its mandate vacating the 2008 final rule (expected as soon as May 1, 2018), farms will remain exempt from the CERCLA reporting requirements as a result of the Omnibus Bill.

On February 1, 2018, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals granted EPA’s motion to further stay  issuance of the mandate until May 1, 2018. No reporting is required until the Court issues its order, or mandate, enforcing its decision to eliminate the reporting exemptions for farms on May 1, 2018. The resources below are being updated for accuracy.

Fact sheet: CERCLA and EPCRA Reporting Requirements for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste at Farms

Overview

Two environmental laws, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), require reporting of releases of a hazardous substance that exceeds a reportable quantity within a 24-hour period. The purpose of the notification is for federal, state, and local officials to evaluate the need for an emergency response to mitigate the effects of the release to the community.

Due to a recent court decision, some farms (including ranches, livestock operations and/or animal operations) will soon be required to report hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA.

Reporting Exemption for Animal Waste and Resulting Litigation

On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted most farms from certain release reporting requirements in CERCLA and EPCRA. Specifically, the rule exempted farms releasing hazardous substances from animal waste to the air above threshold levels from reporting under CERCLA. For EPCRA reporting, the rule exempted reporting of such releases if the farm had fewer animals than a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

In short, all farms were relieved from reporting hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA, and only large CAFOs were subject to EPCRA reporting.    

A number of citizen groups challenged the validity of the final rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On April 11, 2017, the Court struck down the final rule, eliminating the reporting exemptions for farms. EPA sought additional time from the Court to delay the effective date so that EPA could develop guidance materials to help farmers understand their reporting obligations.

No reporting is required until the Court issues its order, or mandate, enforcing the April 11, 2017, decision. EPA will update this guidance to provide farmers with notice of when the mandate issues and reporting requirements begin. Please check this website frequently. Once the mandate is issued, farms should submit an initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center for qualifying releases that occur within a 24-hour period.

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Purpose     

EPA developed this interim guidance to assist farms in complying with requirements to report air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste under CERCLA and EPCRA. EPA welcomes comments and suggestions from the regulated community and the public on these resources and other additional resources that should be included here. Please email comments or suggestions to: CERCLA103.guidance@epa.gov. EPA will revise this guidance, as necessary, to reflect additional information to assist farm owners and operators to meet reporting obligations. 

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Frequent Questions

Reporting Requirements

EPCRA Reporting Requirements

Do I need to submit an EPCRA report?

EPA interprets the statute to exclude farms that use substances in “routine agricultural operations” from reporting under EPCRA section 304. This encompasses routine operations at farms, animal feeding operations, nurseries, other horticultural operations, and aquaculture. For more information, see: EPCRA Q&A. EPA intends to conduct a rulemaking to clarify its interpretation of “used in routine agricultural operations” as it pertains to EPCRA reporting requirements.

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General CERCLA Requirements

Why do I need to report?

Previously, EPA exempted farms from reporting hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA, and only large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were subject to EPCRA reporting, which is a separate but related law.

Citizen groups challenged the validity of EPA’s rule, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit struck down EPA’s rule on April 11, 2017. Therefore, EPA’s regulatory exemption will no longer apply once the court’s ruling takes effect. As a result of the Court decision, farms with animal operations that release certain amounts of hazardous substances will be required to report these air emissions.

When do I need to report?

Farms do not have to report until the Court issues its mandate. Once the mandate is issued, farms releasing hazardous substances to air from animal wastes, equal to or greater than their reportable quantities, within any 24-hour period, must notify the NRC. For farms with continuous releases this can be done by “continuous release reporting.” See: How do I report for CERCLA?

For compliance assistance, please call the EPCRA, RMP & Oil Information Center at: 1-800-424-9346.

Do I need to submit a CERCLA report?

Reporting is required when releases of hazardous substances (like ammonia or hydrogen sulfide) from animal waste meet or exceed their reportable quantities within a 24-hour period. For a complete list of CERCLA hazardous substances, please see: Resources.

What substances need to be reported?

Ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are common hazardous substances emitted from animal waste that require reporting if released to the air in amounts greater than or equal to their reportable quantity of 100 lbs within a 24-hour period. If a farm releases any other hazardous substances above their designated reportable quantities within a 24-hour period, those need to be reported as well.

How do I report for CERCLA?

To comply with CERCLA reporting requirements for air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste, instead of reporting every day, farms may follow a streamlined reporting process known as “continuous release reporting.” This requires the facility owner or operator to:

  • Notify the NRC. This may be done by email (farms@uscg.mil). Please identify your reportable release as an “initial continuous release notification.” 
  • Submit an initial written notification to the EPA Regional Office; and
  • One year later submit an additional follow-up written notification to the EPA Regional Office.

Email should be used by farms for the initial continuous release notification. For other types of releases, please call the NRC at 1-800-424-8802.

For compliance assistance, please call the EPCRA, RMP & Oil Information Center at: 1-800-424-9346.

Who do I notify if I need to report?

You must immediately notify the NRC when you have a release of any CERCLA hazardous substance at or above its reportable quantity within any 24-hour period. However, there is an exception for the normal application of fertilizers or the handling, storage or application of pesticide products. See: Do I have to report when I apply fertilizers or pesticides to crops?

Do I have to notify the NRC every time my emissions exceed the reportable quantity in a 24-hour period?

No. If your farm has releases that are continuous and stable in quantity and rate, you can follow a streamlined reporting process known as “continuous release reporting.” EPA considers emissions from animal waste to be continuous and stable in quantity and rate, and therefore eligible for this streamlined reporting option.

For more information on the regulation and guidance for continuous release reporting requirements, see: Resources.

Can I request an extension?

No, CERCLA section 103 requires the facility owner or operator to immediately notify the NRC of a reportable release of a hazardous substance.

The one exception is for farm owners/operators participating in the Agency’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement, and that are in compliance with their Agreements. For more information, see: Do I have to report if I am participating in the EPA’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement?

Are there additional continuous release reporting requirements?

There are two additional types of continuous release reporting requirements:

  • statistically significant increase notification and
  • notification of changes to previously submitted continuous release information.

You must immediately notify the NRC of any statistically significant increases or of a change in previously submitted release information. This is most likely to be triggered by:

  • an increase in the number of animals maintained on the farm (beyond the range used for the initial report) or
  • a significant change (or disruption) in waste handling systems or procedures.

This is an ongoing requirement.

What is a statistically significant increase?

A statistically significant increase is an episodic release of a hazardous substance that exceeds the release quantity described in the upper bound of the normal range of the facility’s continuous release report. The normal range includes all releases of a hazardous substance (from all sources at the facility) occurring over any 24-hour period under normal operating conditions during the preceding year.

Only those releases that are both continuous and stable in quantity and rate may be included in the normal range.

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Previous Reporting

A farm owner/operator filed the continuous release and one-time anniversary report to comply with CERCLA section 103 for their facility before the 2008 exemption. If the information is still valid, do they have to file again?

No, if there have been no SSI in emissions or other changes to the report filed before 2008, then the farm owner/operator need not submit another report.

If a farmer made an initial notification to the NRC before the court issued the mandate, when do they need to submit a written report to the EPA regional office?

For those farmers who have already made their initial continuous release notification, the farmer may wait to submit the written report until the court issues the mandate. Within 30 days of the court mandate, the farmer must submit a written report to the EPA regional office. No additional call or email to the NRC is required.

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Other Circumstances

Do I have to report when I apply fertilizers or pesticides to crops?

No, farm owners/operators do not need to report the normal application of fertilizers (including normal application of manure as a fertilizer) or the handling, storage or application of pesticide products registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). However, under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) section 103, any spills or accidents involving these substances must be immediately reported to the NRC when they meet or exceed the reportable quantity.

Do I have to report if I am participating in the EPA’s Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement?

At this time, farm owners/operators in compliance with their Animal Feeding Operation Air Compliance Agreement (70 FR 4958) are not expected to report air releases of hazardous substances from animal wastes under CERCLA and EPCRA. Per their Agreement, participants must report air releases of hazardous substances equal to or exceeding the hazardous substances’ reportable quantities under CERCLA when EPA completes the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study.

For additional information on EPCRA reporting, see: EPCRA Q&A.

Do farms that have animals that reside primarily outside of an enclosed structure and graze on pastures, need to comply with reporting releases of hazardous substances from animal wastes under CERCLA?

Yes, if the facility has releases above the reportable quantity. EPA considers all contiguous property under common ownership to be a single facility for reporting purposes. For purposes of determining whether you have a reportable release, a person must identify all of the sources of hazardous substances releases, identify the quantities that are emitted from each source, and aggregate the quantities released for the facility. In making this determination, farms should include all releases from the facility, including releases from animal waste due to animals that reside primarily outside of an enclosed structure.

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How to Report

How do I report a continuous release under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)?

You may follow these steps to report air emissions from animal wastes (e.g. ammonia and hydrogen sulfide releases):

Step 1: 

Notify the NRC. For the purposes of this initial continuous release notification, please email the NRC at: farms@uscg.mil. The email  must clearly state this is an “initial continuous release notification.” 

Due to the potential for large call volumes to the NRC an email notification will expedite your notification and will help to avoid expected long hold delays once reporting for farmers begins. An email notification should also help ensure that other types of emergency calls which may require immediate attention are expeditiously received by the NRC and not held up by call delays or system crashes. EPA and the NRC consider an email notification, in this instance, sufficient to comply with the immediate notification requirement for a continuous release under CERCLA section 103.

In order to qualify as a continuous release notification, please note in the subject line of the e-mail that this is an “initial continuous release notification.”

Include the following in your email (farms@uscg.mil):

  • Name of the farm;
  • Location of the farm (e.g., name of city/town and state);
  • Name(s) of the hazardous substance(s) released.

You can submit information for multiple facilities (i.e., farms) in one email (farms@uscg.mil).

Note: The NRC does not require personally identifiable information, such as an address for a private residence. As an alternative, a generic location (such as name of city/town and state) may be sufficient.

You will receive an automatic response email from the NRC with a single identification number (CR-ERNS) for your farm(s). Include the CR-ERNS number on the follow-up written notification report that goes to your EPA Regional Office discussed in Step 2. The single CR-ERNS number provided should be used for each facility included in the email.

It may take some time to receive the automated notice from the NRC, so please be patient. Also, check your email’s spam or junk folders before attempting to send your email again.

For compliance assistance, please call the EPCRA, RMP & Oil Information Center at: 1-800-424-9346.

Step 2: Submit an initial written notification to the EPA Regional Office.

Submit an initial written notification to the EPA Regional Office for the area where the release occurs, within 30 days of the call to the NRC. Note: Unlike the initial continuous release notification, each facility needs to submit a separate continuous release reporting form.

Farms can use this continuous release reporting form to provide the initial written notification. Please note that this continuous release form is intended for multiple sectors and provides directions to send information to the EPA Regional Offices and to LEPCs and SERCs. Farms not reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) should not send information to the LEPCs and SERCs.

EPA is developing a streamlined continuous release reporting form for farm facility owners and operators and plans to make this form available once it is finalized.

Step 3: A one-time first anniversary follow-up report to the EPA Regional Office.

Within 30 days of the first anniversary date of the initial written notification (i.e., the first continuous release report), the person in charge of the farm must submit a one-time anniversary report to the EPA Regional Office. The farm owner/operator must verify and update the information initially submitted for each of the hazardous substances reported to the NRC and to the EPA Regional Office. This follow-up report should be re-certified by the person in charge of the farm.

EPA’s guide Reporting Requirements for Continuous Releases of Hazardous Substances includes forms to assist you with developing written reports. The guide provides an overview of the information required for the initial and first anniversary follow-up reports.

If I have multiple facilities (i.e., farms), can I make one notification that addresses all of my facilities?

In making your initial notification, you can submit information for multiple facilities in one email (farms@uscg.mil). List the name and location of each farm, as well as the associated name(s) of hazardous substance(s) released. However, if you are calling the NRC, then you can only provide one report per phone call. For the follow-up written notification to EPA, each facility should be reported separately.

You will receive an automatic response email from the NRC with a single identification number (CR-ERNS) for your farm(s). Include the CR-ERNS number on the follow-up written notification report that goes to your EPA Regional Office discussed in Step 2. The single CR-ERNS number provided should be used for each facility included in the email.

How will EPA protect my personal information?

EPA takes privacy concerns seriously, and the Agency protects personally identifiable information (PII) in a manner that is consistent with the law. There are several laws that may protect personal information including the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the E-Government Act of 2002, and the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014. In accordance with these laws, EPA has procedures in place to protect certain PII from unauthorized disclosure.

When responding to FOIA requests for information, EPA carefully evaluates the information to determine whether that information should be withheld under FOIA Exemption 6. To determine whether Exemption 6 applies, EPA is required to weigh the privacy interests of an individual against the public interest of disclosure.  If the privacy interest outweighs the public interest, the information will be withheld.  For more information about privacy, see: EPA's Implementation of the Privacy Act.

For information on FOIA exemptions, see: Freedom of Information Act Exemptions.

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Emissions

How do I estimate the releases for reporting?

To help you comply with the reporting requirements, EPA has made resources available that may be helpful in estimating emissions of ammonia and/or hydrogen sulfide. You may also use other models for estimating emissions or you may estimate quantities of releases by relying on:

  • Past release data;
  • Engineering estimates;
  • Your knowledge of the facility's operations and release history; or
  • Your best professional judgment.

Facility owners and operators are required to report an estimate only - monitoring data is not required. Additionally, farmers are not required to reduce emissions. Farmers should keep a copy of the calculation for future reference.

CERCLA section 103 allows “continuous releases” to be reported in ranges. EPA understands that farmers may need to report their releases in broad ranges that reflect the high degree of uncertainty and variability of these releases.

Why can’t EPA tell me how many animals require reporting?

EPA recognizes that it will be challenging for farmers to estimate releases from animal wastes because there is no generally accepted methodology for estimating these emissions at this time.

Many factors influence emissions:

  • geographic location;
  • environmental conditions;
  • management practices (e.g. feed, manure);
  • animal characteristics (e.g. number, species, life stage);
  • operating conditions; and
  • general management practices.

Due to the complex interactions of these factors, emissions cannot be standardized based solely on the number and type of animals at each animal operation. For example, there are many scenarios when operations with fewer animals will have higher emissions than operations with greater numbers of the same species of animals.

EPA is working on developing methodologies to estimate emissions from a wide variety of operations and thus better inform emission estimates from animal waste. However, that work will not be completed prior to the Court’s mandate that farms report.

How often do I need to estimate emissions?

If you use the continuous release reporting process, you need to review emissions from the farm once a year. You should also estimate emissions following any significant changes in operations that may result in statistically significant increases in emissions. You’ll also need to report any statistically significant increases in emissions.

How can I reduce emissions?

Farmers are not required to reduce emissions. For farmers that want to reduce emissions, EPA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a reference guide that provides options for improving air quality from livestock and poultry operations. The guide provides a compilation of conservation measures for reducing air pollutant emissions and/or reducing air quality impacts from livestock and poultry operations.

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Resources

Emission Estimates

Farm owners/operators may consider any of the resources provided in this section (or any other studies available to you) for estimating releases. You can also coordinate with your trade associations or the land-grant universities in your area (see Appendix A.3: List of AFO Air Quality Programs & Land-Grant Universities available in reference guide).

You may establish estimated quantities of releases by relying on:

  • past release data,
  • engineering estimates,
  • your knowledge of the facility's operations and release history, or
  • your best professional judgment.

Monitoring data is not required. Additionally, farmers are not required to reduce emissions. Farmers should keep a copy of the calculation for future reference.

Disclaimer: This listing does not constitute EPA endorsement. These are provided solely as available resources for farms to use while EPA finalizes its methodologies for estimating air emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal wastes. Farms may use any other approaches that are available to develop these estimates.

Dairy Operations

To estimate ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from dairy operations, see: Dairy Report worksheet(3 pp, 87 K, About PDF) (go to page 3)Exit. Emission estimates are inclusive of ammonia emissions from animal pen surfaces and the runoff holding pond(s). Ammonia emission rates vary between summer and winter months. The worksheet indicates that hydrogen sulfide levels are fairly stable throughout the year.

Although the Dairy Report includes a draft letter and template for continuous release reports for dairy operations, please use the continuous release reporting form.

(Source: These emission estimates are based on research data collected by Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, and West Texas A&M University.)

Swine operations

To estimate ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from swine operations, see: Swine Report worksheet(4 pp, 91 K, About PDF) (go to page 3)Exit. The worksheet considers typical confinement housing and manure storages that are located in a temperate climate. Emission rates are provided for shallow and deep storage pits.

Although the Swine Report worksheet includes a draft letter and template for continuous release reports for swine operations, please use the continuous release reporting form

(Source: The emissions estimates are derived from research reported by:
Gay, S.W., D.R. Schmidt, C.J. Clanton, K.A. Janni, L.D. Jacobson, S. Weisberg. 2003. Odor, Total Reduced Sulfur and Ammonia Emissions from Animal Housing Facilities and Manure Storage Units in Minnesota. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 19(3) 347-360, ASABE, St. Joseph, MI.
and:
Jacobson, L.D., A.J. Heber, S.J. Hoff, Y. Zhang, D.B. Beasley, J.A. Koziel, and B.P. Hetchler. 2006. Aerial Pollutants Emissions from Confined Animal Buildings. Summary report, Ag Air Workshop, USDA-IFAFS research and demonstration program.) This study indicates that these values are a good faith estimate of emissions from swine operations using typical confinement housing and manure storages and located in a temperate climate.)

Poultry Operations

Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide Emission Rates for Poultry Operations (3 pp, 36 K, About PDF)Exit provides ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emission rates for poultry operations, including broilers, laying hens and turkeys. This study lists emission rates for various housing type for each species. It also includes instructions for using the emission rates to calculate emissions for these substances, as well as examples on calculating emissions.

(Source: Hongwei Xin, Robert Burns, and Hong Li. January 2009. Ammonia (NH3) and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Emission Rates for Poultry Operations. Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Dept., Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.)

General emission estimates for ammonia from beef, dairy, horse, swine, poultry operations

An ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 16 K, About PDF) Exit is available for beef, dairy, horse, poultry (broiler, turkey, and ducks), and swine. This study was completed by the University of Nebraska on ammonia losses from animal housing facilities in various conditions (i.e. open dirt lots, on cool and humid days) for different species. Example ammonia emissions estimator worksheets are available for swine and cattle:

(Source:  Rick Stowell and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska.)

A summary of the resources above are included in the following table:The following links exit the site Exit

Resources for Emissions Estimates
Type Ammonia Hydrogen Sulfide Inputs
Beef

Ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 31 K, About PDF)

Cattle example(2 pp,33 K, About PDF)

                                              --

- Number of animals
- Animal housing
- Manure storage

Dairy

Dairy Report worksheet(3 pp, 87 K, About PDF)
(see page 3)

Dairy Report worksheet(3 pp, 87 K, About PDF)
(see page 3)

- Number of animals
- Season

Ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 16 K, About PDF)                                               --

- Number of animals
- Animal housing
- Manure storage

Swine Swine Report worksheet(4 pp, 91 K, About PDF)
(see page 3)
Swine Report worksheet(4 pp, 91 K, About PDF)
(see page 3)

- Number of swine
- Facility type
- Manure system

Ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 16 K, About PDF)

Swine example(2 pp, 31 K, About PDF)

                                              --

- Number of animals
- Animal housing
- Manure storage

Poultry Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide Emission Rates for Poultry Operations(3 pp, 36 K, About PDF) Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide Emission Rates for Poultry Operations(3 pp, 36 K, About PDF)

- Number of animals
- Poultry type
- Housing type

Ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 16 K, About PDF)                                               --

- Number of animals
- Animal housing
- Manure storage

Horse Ammonia emissions estimator(2 pp, 16 K, About PDF)                                               --

- Number of animals
- Animal housing
- Manure storage

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