The National Pork Producers Council applauds a federal court ruling dismissing challenges to the validity of air emissions agreements between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and livestock and poultry farms.

Air consent agreements between the two parties protect animal feeding operations from EPA enforcement actions for past air emission violations, as well as for any violations while the agency conducts a monitoring study of emissions from farms. (See July 15, 2007, National Hog Farmer page 8).

The agreements were signed by 2,600 animal-feeding operations (AFOs), including 1,856 hog operations. NPPC worked with the EPA to write agreements protecting pork producers, while permitting the agency to develop air emissions standards for farms.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit dismissed environmental groups' petitions for review of the agreements “because exercises of EPA's enforcement discretion are not reviewable by this court.” The groups argued the agreements were rules disguised as enforcement actions and that EPA failed to provide proper rulemaking.

The court explained: “Because the (Clean Air and other) acts apply only to emissions above specified levels, EPA cannot enforce the statutory and regulatory requirements without determining an AFO's emissions.”

“The air consent agreements are necessary to take the pork industry's environmental performance to the next level,” says Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, MN, and chairman of NPPC's Environmental Policy Committee.

“By working cooperatively with EPA to conduct emissions monitoring, we are developing the body of scientific knowledge on air emissions from animal agriculture that is necessary to design and implement effective mitigation measures. It is good for agriculture, good for the environment and good for the American people,” he says.