The Environmental Protection Agency came under fire Wednesday during a House hearing for proposing a rule that would exempt confined animal feeding operations from reporting releases of hazardous air emissions such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide under provisions of Comprehensive Environmental, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund law.
The EPA first proposed the exemption in December 2007. It was not clear from testimony Wednesday during a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee whether or not a final rule implementing the exemption would clear the rulemaking process before a Nov. 1 deadline mandated by the White House for final rules during the Bush Administration.
A Government Accountability Office report unveiled at the hearing was critical of federal oversight of CAFOs, noting "no federal agency collects accurate and consistent data on the number, size, and location of CAFOs." The GAO report said it was unable to "determine the exact trends for these operations" because of the lack of data.
USDA undersecretary for natural resources Mark Rey criticized the GAO report in his testimony saying it was hasty and "appears to be a poor investigation and analysis," and did not "adequately involve agriculture and air quality experts at USDA, and failed to include extensive comments from USDA."
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., called the proposed exemption "ill-considered and contrary to the public interest."