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Environmental Appeals Board Approves First Air Compliance Agreements with Animal Feeding Operations

Release Date: 01/30/2006
Contact Information: Dave Ryan, (202) 564-4355 / ryan.dave@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-Jan. 30, 2006) EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) today approved the first 20 Air compliance agreements for animal feeding operations (AFOs). Under these agreements, the AFOs will participate in a nationwide project to evaluate the air emissions from animal feeding operations and use this data to develop an effective regulatory program. EPA also is settling liability for certain past violations against AFOs.

"This is a good working example of EPA accelerating the pace of environmental progress while increasing our nation's economic competitiveness," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "EPA worked with environmental groups and our nation's important agricultural industry to come up with a program that's both good environmental policy and good business policy."

Key to the agreements is an EPA-approved monitoring and research study conducted by independent researchers. The study is expected to begin later this year and will provide EPA with a much stronger and more complete body of air emissions science and data that can be used to develop a sound, reasonable and effective air emissions regulatory program. EPA will use data it gathers to develop emission estimates for farms that can be applied nationwide. EPA also may develop new compliance standards, guidelines and enforcement policies.

EPA began discussions with producers in 2001 on bringing animal feeding operations into compliance with various environmental regulations.

In the Jan. 31, 2005 Federal Register, EPA offered AFOs an opportunity to sign a voluntary consent agreement and final order to resolve potential violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)—also known as Superfund, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). Ultimately, 2,681 AFOs, representing more than 6,700 farms in 42 states, signed up to participate in the voluntary agreement by the Aug. 12, 2005 deadline.

The 20 agreements announced today were submitted to the EAB on Nov. 9, 2005, and consisted of 10 swine-raising operations and 10 operations that raise egg-laying birds. The EAB determined that the agreements were consistent with applicable statutes and regulations under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), including penalty provisions.

EPA is evaluating the remaining agreements and plans to send those satisfying the requirements for participation to the EAB for approval as soon as possible.

Based on its evaluation of the agreements thus far, EPA has determined that enough dairies, swine farms, egg-laying operations, and meat-bird operations have signed up to provide a representative sample for the monitoring program. However, EPA has not yet determined whether there are enough turkey operations for a representative sample. The EAB's approval allows the monitoring study to officially begin developing quality assurance and site-specific monitoring plans for the swine and egg-laying sectors. A nonprofit entity will contract with an independent monitoring contractor (IMC) to implement the monitoring study. The IMC must submit a detailed plan to EPA for review within 60 days of the respondent's receipt of the executed agreement. EPA will then have 30 days to review and approve or disapprove of the plan.

The agreements are the most efficient means to obtain the data needed to determine whether the AFOs are in compliance with federal air emission laws. The monitoring study will begin in 2006 and the emissions-estimating methodologies developed during the study will help EPA develop better tools to assist the agriculture industry and the agency determine AFOs emissions levels and compliance status under the CAA, CERCLA, and EPCRA.

Within 18 months following the conclusion of the monitoring study, EPA will evaluate all data submitted and publish emissions-estimating methodologies for AFOs on a rolling basis. These published emissions-estimating methodologies will allow AFOs to estimate their emissions and comply with federal regulatory requirements. EPA will use the data to bring enforcement actions against AFOs that fail to comply. The result of this process will be improved compliance with the regulatory schemes and the installation of appropriate controls if necessary. This comprehensive approach will achieve widespread compliance much faster than any other enforcement mechanism.

More information on the AFO Agreement: epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-0501.html

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