Environmental Groups Ask the EPA to Regulate Large Milk and Hog Farms

A 75-page petition asking the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take more action to keep large animal farms responsible for large amounts of pollution emitted from their facilities was filed with the EPA on Tuesday. 

The petition was signed by 25 organizations that advocate for the environment and rural communities, including the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, Public Justice Foundation, and the Sierra Club. It asked the EPA to add “industrial dairy and hog operations” to the list of stationary sources of pollution under the Clean Air Act (CAA) arguing that the operations fit the standard to be included. Specifically, they asked the EPA to address farms with 500 cows or 1,000 hogs without a pasture and with a procedure of liquefying manure. 

“All Americans deserve clean air and water, a stable climate, and to live in healthy and sustainable communities,” the petition said. It argued that the farming operations have grown dramatically over the last few decades causing harm to rural communities. Although agricultural operations are generally exempt from water and air pollution laws, these petitioners claimed that the EPA still has a duty to step in and address the environmental issues caused by the farms. 

The organizations asked the EPA to “initiate a rulemaking to implement standards of performance and emission guidelines to reduce methane emissions.” The petition claimed that a solution presented by “industrial agribusiness and Big Oil & Gas” known as “biogas” is a “falsely driven narrative” and will contribute negatively rather than addressing the issues. It asked the EPA to address this purportedly false solution. 

“Factory farm gas is dirty energy touted by the industrial agriculture industry and its partners in the fossil fuel industry as green technology that will help reduce carbon emissions from factory farms, when in reality, it will only perpetuate the harmful impact of the factory farm system on rural communities,” a press release from the organizations explained

The advocacy organizations purported that this group of dairy and hog farms currently contribute one-third of methane emissions from agriculture, and 13% of total methane emissions. Through the petition before the EPA, the organizations reportedly hope to hold the agency accountable for not addressing the issue.