EPCRA and Ammonia

Your 10 second brief on EPCRA and Ammonia

  • EPCRA, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, is currently enforcing air emissions of naturally occurring ammonia in manure
  • Any horse facility with 500 horses or more could reach reporting threshold every 24 hours.
  • NASTTPO, the National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, is supporting S.2430 “A bill to amend the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 to exclude certain air emissions from emergency notification requirements, and for other purposes” was introduced to the senate. S.2430 will clarify for both agriculture operators and NASTTPO officials what is required and will exempt manure originating ammonia from EPCRA reporting requirements.

Manure stinks, but this environmental regulation stinks more. Recent EPA rule enforcement has targeted naturally occurring ammonia in manure under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was authorized by Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA Title III) in 1986 in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. The purpose of EPCRA is to help protect communities during accidental releases of toxic chemicals by requiring the notification of chemical releases to emergency personnel.

Spilled substances listed under the EPCRA Extremely Hazardous Substances list (EPCRA EHS) OR the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substance list are required to be reported when released in amounts above the listed threshold within a 24 hour period. Reporting a spilled substance triggers an emergency response from local authorities.

In 2018 Congress enacted legislation titled the Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act that excluded air emissions of naturally occurring manure based ammonia from the reporting requirements of CERCLA. Historically, substances listed as exempt from CERCLA reporting are also listed as exempt from EPCRA reporting.

As regulatory language does not explicitly list exempting air emissions of manure originating ammonia from EPCRA, the EPA has the discretion to enforce reporting. The most recent administration has begun requiring EPCRA reporting of ammonia, regardless of origin, and is inclusive of manure related emissions. Any 100 lb or greater emission of ammonia in one 24 hour period must be reported. Any facility with 500 or more horses on the property could potentially reach this threshold within a 24 hour period. Reporting requirements fall outside of an operations CAFO status and would be inclusive of breeding farms, show facilities, racetracks, and more.

Additionally, this threshold could potentially be reached at a lower population of horses depending on bedding substrate used, diet, size of horse, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research specifically into ammonia emissions from horse manure.

An EPCRA report would need to be submitted to local emergency responders every day the threshold is reached. For example, a racetrack would need to report every day during the season.

The National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO) has come out in support of exempting naturally occurring manure originating ammonia from EPCRA reporting. As there is no remediation protocol or need to manage ammonia released from manure, EPCRA reporting of this substance creates undue strain on NASTTPO officials receiving reports, and the operations owners making the reports on a daily basis. Further, as EPCRA reporting of this substance has been ambiguously enforced both Federally and at the state level, confusion exists at multiple points about what is required at this stage.

On July 27, 2023, S.2430 “A bill to amend the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 to exclude certain air emissions from emergency notification requirements, and for other purposes” was introduced to the senate. S.2430 will clarify for both agriculture operators and NASTTPO officials what is required and will exempt manure originating ammonia from EPCRA reporting requirements.

AHC supports language that reduces unnecessary reporting, as well as encourages further research into manure protocols specific to horse manure emissions.