Image: Cattle feed at trough
Farms where livestock are concentrated have become a battleground over pollution control.
updated 12/12/2008 6:21:58 PM ET 2008-12-12T23:21:58

The nation's farms no longer have to report to authorities the toxic, smelly fumes released from animal waste.

The Bush administration late Friday completed a regulation exempting smaller farms from reporting releases of hazardous air pollution such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that the changes will allow responders to focus on spills and releases that require their attention.

But environmentalists say the rule will make it difficult to track air pollution problems at farms.

"This is one of the most egregious special interest giveaways in eight long years of special interest giveaways," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said in a statement. "The injury from ammonia or hydrogen sulfide is the same whether someone is exposed to ammonia from a factory or tank car or from a giant cesspit of manure."

Large farms with hundreds of dairy cows or thousands of pigs will still have to report to local and state authorities.

In November, the EPA issued pollution control requirements for large livestock feedlots that would allow farm operators to avoid having to get a permit if they claim the facility will not put harmful discharges into nearby waterways.

Environmentalists complained this provision will let many of the feedlot operators off the hook.

"This regulation allows these industrial meat farms to avoid the Clean Water Act altogether by certifying that they have taken voluntary action to avoid discharges," said Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA enforcement official who now is director of the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group.

The National Pork Producers Council called those new rules "tough but fair" and said they set a high environmental standards for the feedlots, known within the industry as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

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