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EPA Announces Air Quality Compliance Agreement for Animal Feeding Operations

Release Date: 01/21/2005
Contact Information: Cynthia Bergman 202-564-9828/ bergman.cynthia@epa.gov

Note on June 22, 2005: several of the dates in this initial news release have changed. Please see the updated page for current information.

(Washington, D.C.-- 01/21/05) The Environmental Protection Agency today announced an air quality compliance agreement to address emissions from certain animal feeding operations, also known as AFOs. This agreement is part of the Agency’s ongoing effort to minimize air emissions from animal feeding operations and to ensure those operations comply with the Clean Air Act and other laws.

"This agreement is a huge step forward," said Thomas V. Skinner, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "It will allow us to reach the largest number of AFOs in the shortest period of time and ensure that they comply with applicable clean air requirements."

The purpose of the agreement is to ensure that AFOs comply with applicable environmental requirements and to gather scientific data the Agency needs to make informed regulatory and policy determinations. The agreement will establish an industry-funded emissions monitoring program that will help provide this information, leading to better tools to help the farm industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and EPA determine the compliance status of feeding operations.

In recent years, the increased size and consolidation of agricultural operations including poultry, swine and dairy operations have been the focus of an increasing number of citizen complaints and concern about possible health impacts. A 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences called on EPA to improve its method for estimating emissions from AFOs – a key step in mitigating air pollution from those operations.

The emissions of air pollutants and hazardous substances from certain feeding operations may be subject to requirements of the Clean Air Act and notification provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Though EPA previously has brought Clean Air Act enforcement actions against AFOs, more data are necessary to determine whether operations are in violation, the nature and extent of any violations and the best practices to control industry-wide emissions.

AFO operators participating in the agreement will pay a civil penalty of between $200 and $100,000, based on the size and number of farms in their operation, and also will contribute to a fund that will cover the cost of the two-year emissions monitoring program. Qualifying AFOs may sign up to participate within 90 days following publication of the agreement in the Federal Register.

Data from the monitoring program will help EPA develop a method for estimating emissions from different types and sizes of feeding operations. Once these methods have been established, operators will be required to apply for all applicable air permits, install all needed controls, implement all required practices, and otherwise come into full compliance.

Though participating AFOs will not be sued for past violations, provided that they comply with specific conditions, the agreement does not limit EPAs ability to take action in the event of imminent and substantial danger to public health or the environment. AFOs that are the subject of current enforcement actions may be barred from joining the study. The agreement also preserves state and local authorities’ authority to enforce local odor or nuisance laws.

EPA will accept public comment on the agreement for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register. For information on how to submit comments, go to http://www.epa.gov/compliance/agreements/afo