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Could Maryland Pollution Ruling Soon Affect Pa.?

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March 19, 2021
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A Maryland circuit court recently ruled that the Maryland Department of the Environment must regulate ammonia air emissions from livestock operations as a water pollutant.

The court case specifically dealt with ammonia emissions from poultry houses but applies to other livestock operations that are subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water discharge permits under federal and state statutes in Maryland. The court found that gaseous ammonia is discharged to the Chesapeake Bay through the use of industrial fans, and a 2020 study showed that millions of pounds of ammonia are emitted from Maryland’s poultry industry. The study then showed the emitted ammonia settles on nearby land and waterways, casing significant pollution to the bay.

If the ruling is implemented by Maryland, it would likely result in costly monitoring and mitigation measures by livestock operations to address ammonia emissions for the state’s livestock industry. It is expected that the court’s ruling will be appealed.

Although the Maryland court’s ruling is not directly applicable to Pennsylvania livestock operations, its underlying rationale could serve as a basis for legal actions to regulate agricultural ammonia emissions in Pennsylvania, part of which is also part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Addressing these emissions could have a significant financial impact on livestock operations, and livestock operations in Pennsylvania may want to start researching this issue now to decide how a similar ruling or law it could affect them if one comes to pass in the state.

If you have any questions about the ammonia emissions in your livestock operation, please contact me.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this alert should not be construed as legal advice to be relied upon nor to create an attorney/client relationship. Please note that the reader’s or an industry’s specific situation or circumstances will vary and, thus, for example, an approach that is advisable in one industry may not be appropriate in another industry. If you have questions about your situation or about how to apply information contained in this alert to your situation or industry, you should reach out to an attorney.

The views expressed in this alert are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or the firm’s clients. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly challenging, evolving and, in many cases, can be controversial. Any views expressed in this alert are not intended to advocate for or endorse a particular governmental response to the pandemic.


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