9th Circuit Lawsuit Claims EPA Should Cancel Arizona Agricultural Pollution Exemption

The Center for Biological Diversity claimed in a petition for review filed on Friday in the Ninth Circuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that the government should be doing more to control pollution caused by industrial agriculture in Arizona.  

The lawsuit alleged that an exemption for agriculture air pollution permit requirements, specifically for agriculture equipment, throughout the state previously granted by the EPA should be overturned by the court. The Center purported that this exemption was a violation of federal laws and a breach of the EPA’s responsibilities to help keep the air clean. 

A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity explained that farm equipment with diesel-burning engines contribute to air pollution, specifically smog and soot, and that manure also leads to harmful air pollution. 

“Contrary to what we may want to think, industrial agriculture and factory farms are a dirty business when it comes to air pollution,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney with the Center. “We’re going to court to make sure Arizona is protecting people from asthma attacks, cancer and the other harmful health impacts massive corporate farming operations can cause.”

As a solution, the plaintiff suggested that there are many opportunities in Arizona to both reduce pollution and provide jobs, including powering farm equipment with solar panels instead of diesel engines. They claimed that the exemption allowed Arizona farm operations to cause harm to public health, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to natural habitats including the Grand Canyon. The filing also claimed that agriculture air pollution can harm both wild plants and crops. 

The plaintiff is represented by the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. The defendants include the EPA, EPA administrator Michael Regan, and Deborah Jordan, an acting EPA regional administrator.