DPI Concerned about Air Quality Assessment Proposed in Maryland

A very short but potentially very negative bill is pending in the Maryland Senate and we ask you to let members of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs know what you think about it by Monday, February 27.

Senate Bill 773, labeled the Community Healthy Air Act, calls upon the Maryland Department of the Environment to conduct an environmental assessment of its compliance with state and federal air quality laws and regulations and the compliance of concentrated animal feeding operations with those same state and federal air quality laws and regulations related to emissions of air pollutants. This bill affects not just Eastern Shore chicken farms, but animal farms throughout the state.

The bill mandates that the Maryland Department of the Environment identify all air pollutants from CAFOs. EPA's EPCRA/CERCLA/Clean Air Act Consolidated List of Lists includes about 1,800 air pollutants. Identifying all that might be coming from CAFOs will be a challenge.

MDE will be required to collect air quality monitoring data from CAFOs in accordance with an air monitoring program implemented by the department. This could mean there will have to be air monitoring stations on each CAFO chicken farm in the state. That would be an expensive and time-consuming data collection process that needs to be done over the course of a year or more, not just for a few weeks or days.

Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. is concerned about how MDE will be able in one year, as called for in the bill, to identify all pollutants coming out of CAFOs and then to collect data on them, determine where to place the monitoring equipment, buy and install all the necessary monitoring equipment, hire and train persons to install and monitor these air monitoring stations, pay persons to collect and compile the data, and prepare a report to the General Assembly by October 1, 2018, one year after enactment of this bill. At the federal level, EPA has been working for more than 12 years to figure out how to monitor chicken house air emissions and one multi-year, multi-university study has cost more than $15 million. And EPA still does not know what to do. We question whether MDE has the money and expertise to do what this bill will require.

This bill is being pushed by a handful of persons in Wicomico County who do not want chicken houses built and operated in agricultural areas of the county. They are working with professional advocates not friendly toward the chicken industry. This could be part of their efforts to close down the chicken industry. Interestingly, the legislative sponsors are from Montgomery and Prince George's County and Baltimore City.

This could impact our chicken growers if MDE tries to force its way onto farms to set up monitoring stations. It could lead to more state regulation for how growers operate their chicken houses.

While the gathering of scientifically valid and accurate data could be helpful to our growers and our entire industry, this poorly drafted SB 773 could lead to incorrect conclusions about all chicken farms based upon monitoring at just a few of them, if MDE decides not to monitor each farm. Incomplete, inaccurate, and poorly gathered data could lead to conclusions that could impact how growers operate their farms. These conclusions could lead to additional state environmental requirements.

If a study is to be done, it needs to be done right and this bill, we believe, will not produce accurate results.

If you oppose this bill, please contact these Senate committee members by Monday, February 27. Let them know you are opposed and why.

If you are interested in attending and testifying at the Senate committee hearing on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 28, please let us know. You will have a few minutes to offer oral comments. Oral testimony from chicken growers could be helpful to the cause. There are 11 bills on the hearing schedule that afternoon and we will not know until then the order in which bills will be heard.

So, even if you do not attend the hearing, please send your comments to the senators listed above.

Thanks for your help on SB 773.

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