If You Have Questions
See also "When Opportunity Knocks."
It’s taken awhile, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a national consent agreement to provide legal protections to producers for inadvertent past violations of national air laws. Meanwhile, the agency will study air emissions from pork, dairy, egg and poultry operations.
EPA officials worked with the National Pork Producers Council and other livestock organizations to draw up an agreement that will determine the future Clean Air Act, CERCLA and EPCRA requirements for all animal-feeding operations. A couple of dozen operations will be selected for the air-emissions study from those producers who sign up for the agreement. The resulting data will form the basis for future regulations.
The final notice was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 31. This means you have until May 1 to sign-up for the study or lose out on the legal protection that the agreement provides.
“Signing the consent agreement is something producers running all sizes of operations should consider,” says Neil Dierks, chief executive officer, NPPC. “Right now EPA doesn’t have an effective way of translating the effects of farm size or manure-handling methods into valid compliance thresholds for air laws.”
A key part of the agreement is a two-year study of the air emissions from pork operations (and other livestock industries) across the country. Based on the study’s findings, EPA will identify farm-emission levels, and then set
national air policies to regulate excessive levels.
The agreement will cost participating producers up to $2,500 per operation to fund the study. But, pork producers can breathe easy because the National Pork Board has allocated $6 million in checkoff funds to pay the entire amount for all pork producers.
Purdue University researchers will manage the study, oversee its quality assurance and financial accounting. They will provide status reports to EPA, the industries and the public. Scientists from other universities will actually conduct the study, using EPA-approved methods and equipment.
The consent agreement provides participating producers legal protection for past emissions violations that may have inadvertently occurred. To make those protections permanent, participating producers will have to meet the agreement’s requirements. Future regulatory policies will apply to all producers, whether they participate in the consent agreement or not.
Producers who sign the agreement with EPA will pay a small penalty, but only those producers receive the legal protection through 2008. Paying the penalty does not mean you’re admitting to any guilt.
The penalty fees are:- $200 per single farm that’s smaller than a defined Confined Animal Feeding Operation (1,000 animal units or 2,500 finishing hogs.)
$500 per single farm that’s larger than the CAFO threshold but less than 10 times the threshold.
$1,000 per single farm that is 10 times or more larger than the CAFO threshold.
A fee cap of $100,000 for 200 farms (one owner.)
The agreement is available to all producers — both owners and contractees. Producers can sign up all of their operations at the same time and get legal protection for the entire group at once. As for a contractee, you can sign up yourself or make an arrangement with the owner of the pigs to sign up your operation. If you’re the owner/-contractor, you’ll want to ensure that your contractees are on board.
Keep in mind, all operations are eligible and will benefit from this consent agreement. The legal protections apply specifically to challenges involving federal policies, but being part of the consent agreement will no doubt help if you face a nuisance suit.
Bottom line – this isn’t a “free pass,” but rather an opportunity to be involved in helping set science-based air-emission standards for the pork industry.