In its final days, the Bush administration is poised to exempt poultry farms from reporting how much ammonia and other noxious pollutants they are releasing into the air from the millions of tons of manure their flocks generate.

The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the federal Office of Management and Budget to give final approval to a rule that would exclude poultry farms from environmental reporting required of other industries. The budget office reviews all proposed federal regulations to see that their benefits justify their costs.

The exemption is being sought by the poultry industry, which argues that farmers shouldn’t be saddled with the burden of reporting what it contends are harmless releases of ammonia from their birds’ waste.

Ammonia emissions from farms are “extremely low and pose no risk to human health,” according to a statement issued by the National Chicken Council.

 But environmentalists counter that reporting is warranted because far more ammonia is getting into the air from poultry farms than from sewage treatment plants and other industrial sources – which do have to report their emissions.

What’s more, ammonia contains nitrogen, one of the main pollutants fouling the Chesapeake Bay.

“Ammonia has the same health impacts, whether it comes from a steel mill or a chicken house,” said Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club.

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