Union of Concerned Scientists Union of Concerned Scientists website (photo credit Marjorie Farringtong)
What happened: EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler exempted farms from reporting hazardous air emissions from animal waste. Prior to this action, farms that emitted 100 pounds or more of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide per day into the air were required to report to local agencies.
Why it matters: By not collecting the data, scientists, political leaders, and concerned citizens are robbed of information that can help reduce or prevent serious health problems in nearby communities. In this case, lack of data collection may lead to increased exposure to ammonia or hydrogen sulfide from large farms causing serious health effects.
In June 2019, the EPA stopped the collection of valuable data on ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from farms. The reporting data is used by emergency responders and includes options for reporting “continuous releases” if emissions occur on a more regular basis. The policy to halt data collection is also wildly unpopular with the American people. The EPA had previously posted a draft of the new rule, on forgoing hazardous waste emissions from farms, for public comment and received 87,473 comments, of which 99 percent were in opposition to the new rule. Because of high air emission thresholds, as governed by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), these reporting rules practically only affect the largest of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).