New regulations require dairies to report emmissions from manure

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Many Roosevelt and Curry County dairies and feedlots are still waiting to feel – maybe a better word in this case is “sniff” – the impact of a new federal regulation on reporting air emissions.

At issue are two major byproducts of cattle operations – emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

Both gases come from manure.

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule went into effect Jan. 20.

All farms are exempt from reporting emissions from animal waste under an environmental law, according to information from the American Farm Bureau Federation. However, under an emergency planning law, concentrated animal feeding operations must report under certain circumstances.

If the facilities’ owners signed the EPA Consent Agreement in 2005 or if the animal population is below 700 dairy cows or 1,000 non-dairy cattle, the operation doesn’t have to report.

Poultry and swine operations also must report if their populations are above specific EPA limits.

“I think this rule can help confined animal operations know exactly what it is that they should be doing at this time, and from that standpoint, it’s helpful,” Chet Wyant of EnviroCompliance Services Inc. in Clovis said.

Wyant works with area feedlots and dairies on environmental regulations.

Most feedlots and dairies in Roosevelt and Curry counties filed the consent agreement, Wyant said. Therefore, they are exempt from the new law until the EPA uses data from an ongoing national study to determine if animal feeders need air quality permits.

“We don’t expect that information or rule to be finished for about two years or so,” Wyant said.

Roosevelt County dairy farmer Alan Anderson said Wyant handled compliance with the new rule for his dairy. But he said he knew the regulation would mean more paperwork.

Operations of the affected size and without the consent agreement must perform calculations to learn if the facility is emitting more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day, Wyant said. If it is, the dairy or feedlot must report to the state and local emergency management departments.

“It’s not just the size of the facility; it’s the calculations of the emissions that goes with that,” he said.

Wyant said his calculations show it takes 1,250 mature dairy cows and a few more smaller cattle in feedlots to produce 100 pounds of ammonia per day and even more animals to produce that much hydrogen sulfide, the other gas of concern. Most feedlots and dairies in the area have more cattle than that, he said.

Farmers who need to report must fill out a form, which is then filed at the proper government offices for future reference. Wyant said the government would do nothing else with the information.

There is no fee required, and Wyant estimated it could take two or three hours to study and complete the paperwork.

Unless the operation significantly changed, the owner wouldn’t need to do the paperwork again, he said.

For industrial facilities that had ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in containers, emergency responders need to know where the gases were on the premise, Wyant said.

Unlike industrial facilities, he said, concentrated animal feeding operations release ammonia and, to a lesser extent, hydrogen sulfide on a continuous basis without the gases being under pressure.

“In this area, we are fortunate with operators who generate manure in these facilities because the climate is so dry,” Wyant said.

Production of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide comes from biological processes that require moisture.