WASHINGTON – Today, Food & Water Watch joined environmental, environmental justice, and rural community groups across the country to file a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency, calling on the agency to regulate industrial dairy and hog operations and hold them accountable for their harmful contributions to air and climate pollution.
The petition also calls on the EPA to reject the false solution of factory farm gas, branded as “biogas” by industrial agribusiness and Big Oil & Gas. Factory farm gas is a form of dirty energy and a false climate solution that will continue to negatively impact Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and white rural communities and further harm our land, air, and water.
Oregon has long suffered from loose regulations and a legislature bound to industrial agricultural interests by significant campaign contributions. A bill that would have put a pause on new permits for mega-dairies in Oregon died last week after an industry-weighted hearing in the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment.
This petition calls for immediate action from the EPA to exercise its authority and fulfill its obligation to protect public health, rural communities, and our land, air, and water by listing and regulating industrial dairy and hog operations — defined as facilities that confine at least 500 cows or 1,000 hogs without access to pasture while liquefying manure — under section 111 of the Clean Air Act. As major sources of the super pollutant methane, these facilities endanger public health and welfare and now account for 33 percent of agricultural methane emissions, 13 percent of total U.S. methane emissions, and 1.3 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
“Industrial dairies pollute Oregon’s natural resources but their air pollution remains unregulated,” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen. “The Biden EPA has an obligation to curb the emissions of these mega-polluters and stop the false narrative of biogas as a renewable energy source. Mega-dairies like Threemile Canyon have falsely claimed manure digesters are sustainable farm practices, but the reality is much darker. Digesters capture only a fraction of the methane produced by factory farms and bind us to a system that supports fossil fuels.”
“We’ve seen firsthand in Oregon that unchecked expansion and unregulated operation of industrial factory farms leads to disaster,” said Food & Water Watch Oregon Organizer Emma Newton. “Mega-dairy interests have for the most part operated with the tacit approval of the Oregon legislature after heavy campaign contributions. But frontline communities pay the price when their water is contaminated or their air is polluted with methane and ammonia. The EPA can hold these companies accountable right now.”
This petition demands that the EPA step up and address the role that industrial agriculture plays as a major driver in climate change.The EPA must uphold the President’s commitment to a climate agenda that “follows the science” rather than conjecture and corporate motivation, and embraces real climate change solutions, including sustainable agricultural practices, as well as wind and solar energy in order to restore rural communities, help stabilize our climate, and advance environmental justice.