Federal, State, and Local Air Quality Regulations Related to Animal Agriculture

The air emissions from animal feeding operations have relatively few regulatory oversights. Below is a summary of programs that can apply to animal agriculture. Related page: Air Quality Regulations for Animal Agriculture (curriculum materials).

Federal Air Programs Related to Animal Agriculture

The following federal laws and their applicability to animal agriculture is discussed in a four page fact sheet “Air Quality Regulation and Animal Agriculture“. (PDF format). These federal laws are enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which delegates authority to states, tribes or territories in many situations.

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act is a federal program that sets standards for air quality (national ambient air quality standards or NAAQS). The states are responsible for developing state implementation plans (SIPs) to reach those standards. Major sources of the six criteria pollutants receive the most attention under the law.

Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know (EPCRA)

EPCRA is aimed at assisting community managers and first responders by giving them information about hazardous or potentially hazardous chemicals that are in their area. Large animal operations that exceed the release of 100 lbs of hydrogen sulfide or ammonia per day need to report, but most animal agriculture facilities are exempted under a 2008 rule.

Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)

CERCLA is more commonly referred to as “Superfund”. In 2008, EPA finalized a rule granting animal agriculture an administrative exemption from CERCLA. Court challenges have followed and in 2010, EPA voluntarily remanded the rule for reconsideration. At this time, no animal operations are required to report and EPA’s timeline for reconsideration in unclear.

Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting

The Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule is not a law that restricts GHG emissions, but it requires large sources to report their emissions annually. Some large animal operations are included in this rule, however, there is currently a Congressional prohibition on EPA expenditures for the purpose of implementing subpart JJ (manure management) of the rule. This prohibition needs to be renewed annually to remain in effect. If, at a future date, Congress removes this restriction, animal operations should be prepared to comply with the reporting requirement. Related: LPELC webcast on the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule

For more information on these and other federal air programs, see the website US EPA Animal Feeding Operations (Air Programs)

How Much Do AFOs Contribute to Air Pollution?

There is little reliable information on the amount of pollutants that are emitted by animal feeding operations. Because of the large increase in the average size of AFOs in recent years, there has been increased awareness of the air quality issues associated with AFOs. The National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS) data was released by EPA in 2011. The NAEMS project was conducted as a result of the National Air Consent Agreement. This process was aimed at conducting actual measurements of animal agriculture air emissions as many federal regulations set a numerical criteria above which the emissions source is required to report. |  Related: LPELC webcasts Introduction to NAEMS and Selected Results and Discussion of NAEMS. This study is not a regulatory program, but the data gathered as part of the study will be used to guide future policy in air quality and its application to animal agriculture.

Technical Assistance for Animal Agriculture and Air Quality

NRCS generally plays a role in technical and financial assistance and does not create regulatory programs. However, assistance that helps animal operations comply with regulatory programs is often a priority. USDA NRCS air quality information

State, Tribal or Territorial Programs

In most cases the delegated authority to enforce federal regulations lies with state, tribal or territorial agencies. These may develop programs that are more stringent than federal standards, but cannot develop programs with lower standards than federal programs specify. Find your state or region air agencies

Related: LPELC webcast presentation on how Minnesota regulates animal feeding operations and hydrogen sulfide emissions.

Local programs

Most local programs with connections to animal agriculture and air quality are in the form of county or municipal zoning ordinances. These ordinances often dictate where new or expanding facilities are located. These do not directly regulate the amount of emissions from an animal feeding operation, but often have the goal of reducing the amount of odor nuisance neighbors or nearby public spaces may experience as the result of a new or enlarged animal operation. These zoning laws usually apply to many types of business and industry and not just animal agriculture. To find out more, contact your county or municipal government.

Related: LPELC webcast on Planning Livestock & Poultry Facilities for Reduced Odor Risk

Additional Information

The following archived webinars provide more information on the types of air emissions related to livestock and poultry farms and different control strategies.