The Environmental Protection Agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on whether it is appropriate to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act. In order to regulate automobile emissions, the EPA would first have to make a finding that all greenhouse gases endanger public health and safety and should be classified as a "pollutant."
Essentially, the EPA is ruling on whether or not GHG emissions should be classified as endangering public safety. If that finding is made, all GHGs including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would have to be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
The problem with this approach is that once an endangerment finding is made, other provisions of the Clean Air Act are automatically triggered, creating much broader, costly regulation of other sectors of the economy, including agriculture.
Once an endangerment finding is made, Title V of the Clean Air Act requires that any entity with the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of a regulated pollutant must obtain a permit in order to continue to operate.
For previously regulated pollutants, a threshold of 100 tons meant that only the largest of emitters were required to be permitted. For greenhouse gases, the situation is much different. Not only would power plants and factories, but also many office and apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, large churches and even large homes would be regulated. Literally hundreds of thousands of entities would be required to obtain permits.
The vast majority of livestock operations would easily meet the 100 ton threshold and fall under regulation. In fact, USDA has stated that any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, or 50 beef cattle would have to obtain permits. According to USDA statistics, this would cover about 99 percent of dairy production and over 90 percent of beef production in the United States.
As the proposal stands today, the permit fees would equate to a "tax" of $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow.
Greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act would not only adversely impact livestock producers but all farmers. Crop production emits nitrous oxide from fertilizer and methane from rice production, and fields that emit 100 tons of carbon would also be subject to permitting requirements as well. Any Florida farm with 500 acres of corn, 250 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of potatoes or only 35 acres of rice would be forced to obtain Clean Air Act permits.
Emissions from farm machinery and energy used in production might also be added. Regulation of other economic sectors will result in increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs for all farmers and ranchers.