A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, S.2421, would exempt concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), including the poultry industry, from reporting the hazardous substances emitted from their facilities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). CAFOs generate massive quantities of animal waste which can release substantial amounts of hazardous emissions like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the air.
In 2017, as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Waterkeeper Alliance and partners, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an EPA rule that allowed CAFOs to avoid reporting their releases of hazardous substances under CERCLA. The decision means that CAFOs would finally have to begin reporting their significant toxic emissions – like every other industry. This bill threatens to eliminate the progress made in holding CAFOs accountable for their impacts on our communities and environment.
Shorekeeper Executive Director, Jay Ford, released the following statement on S.2421,
“We are calling on Virginia’s Senators to oppose this legislation that endangers the health of rural communities and our waters. The releases coming from these CAFOs are massive and we have a right to track the hazardous material pouring into our communities. Senate Bill 2421 tells rural America that we will not entitled to the same safeguards as the rest of our country.
According to tables provided by the EPA, one large poultry farm can produce more than two thousand pounds of ammonia per day. In Accomack county alone, we are on course to exceed 500 houses with ammonia totals that outstrip many other industrial facilities.
Additionally, airshed models for the Chesapeake Bay Clean-up plan, show animal agriculture emissions as the only sector of airborne nitrogen that is continuing to grow. These releases are offsetting progress made in other air pollution sectors and hindering our ability to reach 2025 Chesapeake Bay Clean up goals.
Concerns about community heath impacts from CAFOs have been raised by the CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Furthermore, Maryland is currently considering legislation to study the impacts of these emissions on the well-being of surrounding communities. With so many unsettled questions surrounding potential health impacts this legislation is simply irresponsible.
Industry has expended considerable resources fighting in the courts and now in the U.S. Senate to prevent rural citizens from learning about their toxic releases. Rather than exempting CAFOs from reporting, we should be asking why they are so concerned with hiding the amount of hazardous materials they generate. Shorekeeper is calling on our leaders in Washington to protect our communities and our waters first. This is a matter of environmental justice, plain and simple. This exemption would never fly in more urban areas and rural Virginia deserves the same protections under the law. “