Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: EPA’s Air Compliance Agreement Page: 4 of 15
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Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: EPA's Air Compliance Agreement
From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal
agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly
managed, can adversely impact water quality through surface runoff and erosion, direct
discharges to surface waters, spills and other dry-weather discharges, and leaching into soil and
groundwater. However, animal feeding operations (AFO), enterprises where animals are kept and
raised in confinement, can also result in emissions to the air of particles and gases such as
ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic chemicals. At issue today are questions about the
contribution of AFOs to total air pollution and corresponding ecological and possible public
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority to address AFO air emissions under
several laws-the Clean Air Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and
Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Implementation
and enforcement of these laws requires scientifically credible data on air emissions and accurate
measurement of emissions to determine whether regulated pollutants are emitted in quantities that
exceed specified thresholds.
This report discusses a plan announced by EPA in January 2005, called the Air Compliance
Agreement, intended to produce air quality monitoring data on animal agriculture emissions from
a small number of farms, while at the same time protecting all participants (including farms
where no monitoring takes place) through a "safe harbor" from liability under certain provisions
of federal environmental laws. Some industry sectors involved in negotiating the agreement,
notably pork and egg producers, strongly support it, but other industry groups that were not
involved in the discussions have concerns and reservations. State and local air quality officials
and environmental groups oppose the agreement, as discussed below.
A separate report,CRS Report RL32948, Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer, by
Claudia Copeland, provides general background information on air emissions from poultry and
livestock operations, their sources and health and environmental effects, relevant federal
environmental statutes and regulations, congressional interest in these issues, state activities, and
AFOs2 can affect air quality through emissions of gases (ammonia and hydrogen sulfide),
particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, microorganisms, and
odor. AFOs also produce gases (carbon dioxide and methane) that are associated with climate
change. The generation rates of odor, manure, gases, particulates and other constituents vary with
1 For more extensive discussion, see CRS Report RL32948, Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer, by
2 Under EPA regulations, an AFO is a facility in which livestock or poultry are raised or housed in confinement, and
where the following conditions are met: (1) animals are confined or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-
month period, and (2) crops are not sustained in a normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility (i.e.,
animals are not maintained in a pasture or on rangeland). 40 CFR 122.23(b).
Congressional Research Service
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Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: EPA’s Air Compliance Agreement, report, January 21, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815070/m1/4/?q=%22air%20pollution%22: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.