Greenhouse gas reporting plan could cause problems

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — The National Pork Producers Council charges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to require livestock producers to report manure-related greenhouse gas emissions is ill conceived and could serve to escalate environmental problems.

Although N.P.P.C. applauded E.P.A.’s efforts to address global climate change and provide leadership in protecting the environment, it added requiring livestock producers to report manure-related emissions will add costs to pork operations while basically duplicating information E.P.A. already compiles. E.P.A. should let U.S.D.A. take the lead in attempting to reduce greenhouse gases coming from farms and ranches, N.P.P.C. stated.

Congress is considering climate-change legislation that would set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large emitters such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. Each unit of greenhouse gas an emitter is allowed to release under its cap is called a credit, which may be bought and sold. Those able to release less gas than they are allowed under their cap may sell credits; those over it will need to buy credits or reduce their energy production.

E.P.A. proposed in March to require businesses, including livestock operations, to report emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide under the Clean Air Act. Those emitting at least 25,000 metric tons of gas annually would be affected under the plan. E.P.A. estimated this would be only 40 to 50 livestock operations nationwide and that compliance costs would be only $900 per facility.

N.P.P.C. offered the following reasons why E.P.A.’s mandatory emissions reporting program is not appropriate for hog farms and needs to be revised:

  • Relying on the Clean Air Act to address climate change will steer pork producers toward actions that will increase emissions and could cause additional environmental problems.
  • The Agriculture Department is better equipped than E.P.A. to administer a greenhouse-gas program for livestock producers. U.S.D.A. also has the producer protections required to assure widespread participation in any greenhouse gas reduction program.
  • E.P.A.’s proposal exempts from reporting requirements greenhouse gas emissions from natural processes such as from animals’ digestive systems. But it doesn’t exempt manure decomposition—also a natural process—even though it accounts for only a small portion of total livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions.
  • E.P.A. failed to adequately describe which operations are subject to mandatory reporting.
  • While E.P.A. estimated farms with at least 73,000 hogs would be required to report emissions, it did not explain how it arrived at this number.
  • The costs of the recordkeeping and reporting requirements under the rule are underestimated. E.P.A.’s estimate of $900 to conduct tests and do emissions calculations bears little relation to the actual costs hog farmers will incur to comply with the rule.
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