EPA Air Quality Compliance Agreement -- You Need to Decide

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) are two laws that have been applied to the livestock industry. Even though they were originally intended for the manufacturing sector, they are now being applied to agriculture. There is a lot of contention regarding implementation of these acts, but the major thrust is that they mean you can be fined for FAILURE TO REPORT emissions release from your dairy. In return for you paying a �Penalty�, EPA will release you from being fined for any previous emissions of ammonia over 100 lbs per day. The money will be used to study emissions release from dairies so that proper guidelines can be developed. If EPA chooses to enforce these acts, the fine is $32,500 per day for present and past violations plus the risk of a lawsuit from a 3rd party who believes you should have been reporting.

It is important that you make an informed decision on whether or not you wish to participate in the EPA�s Air Compliance Agreement, also known as the �Safe Harbor Agreement�. The Utah Dairyman�s Association just finished a series of meetings throughout the state, and the National Milk Producer�s Federation has helped get an extension until July 29, 2005 of the deadline for signing up. The turnout at these information meetings was low (probably for many good reasons) and many of you may feel that this does not apply to you. What you choose to do is your own decision; however, not being informed on the subject may end up meaning you are playing Russian roulette.

There is considerable disagreement as to who needs to worry. Research was done by one of my graduate students who evaluated whole-farm nitrogen balances on 41 dairies in Utah and Idaho. On average, we found 81 metric tons per year of nitrogen that could not be accounted for. Our assumption was that a majority of this nitrogen had volatilized (i.e., it went into the atmosphere). I just figured out that, on average, this amounts to 1.05 lbs/cow/day over a year. The magic number for EPA is 100 lbs per farm per day. I don�t pretend that all of the nitrogen was lost into the atmosphere, but cite this figure to point out that even small dairies may need to consider their situation in making a decision on this issue.

In an effort to help you make an informed decision, I will try to bring together as much information as possible on the U.S.U. Dairy Extension Web site. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read pdf files. The URL is:

http://extension.usu.edu/cooperative/dairy/

Look for something under Resources on the bottom left.

The information will be from the National Milk Producer�s Federation, the EPA and the Utah Dairyman�s Association. I will also provide information to help you sign-up for this program. You won�t need to pay until EPA gets back to you. You will also have to report to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC; you have to love all of these acronyms), and a list of individuals to contact in your local area will be included.

I want to repeat that the decision is yours to make. I am trying to help you not to make that decision out of ignorance. For more information contact Allen Young at alleny@ext.usu.edu or (435) 797-3763. ©