Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law


A review by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on September 19, 2017 found that eleven years after an agreement with the Animal Feeding Operations Industry, the EPA still has not developed reliable emission estimation methods for determining whether Animal Feeding Operations comply with the Clean Air Act and other statutes. You can access the full report here.

Background

The Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) Industry sponsored the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS) in 2005 in order to work with the EPA in developing reliable emission estimating methodologies for determining whether individual AFOs are subject to permitting or reporting requirements under the Clean Air Act and other relevant statutes.

The EPA estimates around 18,000 large AFOs exist in the United States. These operations can emit air pollutants in quantities that require permitting under the Clean Air Act, however, reliable methods for estimating these emissions are lacking. Under the consent agreement established in 2005 between the AFO industry and the EPA, the AFO industry agreed to pay a civil penalty, comply with all applicable requirements of the agreement, and participate in a national monitoring study. This monitoring study was funded by the AFO industry at a cost of about $15 million, and its purpose was to provide the EPA with data to develop estimated emissions methodologies for industry.

Report Findings

A recent evaluation from the Office of the Inspector General found that eleven years after this agreement, the EPA has not finalized any methods for evaluating air emissions from animal feeding operations. These methods for evaluating air emissions were expected by 2009 in order to determine whether industry was abiding by the Clean Air Act and other statutory requirements. Eight years after the expected finalization of these methodologies, only about one-fourth of the emission source and pollutant combinations studied in NAEMS resulted in drafted methodologies.

The report blamed several circumstances for the agency’s delay. Among these circumstances were data limitations, significant feedback that was not properly addressed, a lack of expertise and resources, and the lack of an established work plan or timeframes.

Recommendations

The report’s primary recommendation was that the EPA conduct systematic planning for the development of emission estimating methodologies. Through this planning, the EPA will be able to determine realistic goals for how to estimate these emissions. The report further recommends that in the event the EPA determines it cannot develop specific emission estimating methodologies, it is necessary to notify those affected and end civil enforcement protections. Additionally, for those methodologies it can realistically develop, goals should be published for a timeline in issuing the draft methodologies. You can access the report in its entirety here.