Environmental Groups Call on EPA to Cancel ‘Free Pass to Pollute’ Factory Farms


Yesterday, a coalition of environmental and animal rights groups called on the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to drop a “friendly” deal with factory farm owners and start to enforce regulations on atmospheric pollution.

The 24 organizations, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch and the Southern Environmental Law Center, say in the petition that a 2005 agreement signed by the EPA with the owners of 13,900 feed farms, Called “factory farms” where animals are raised in confined environments rather than on pasture – has placed many rural communities in a “legalized air pollution purgatory.”

A recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) estimated that air pollution from meat production in the United States, including raising forage crops for livestock, kills 12,700 people a year. Animal manure gives off pungent-smelling gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide and releases volatile organic compounds, while livestock raise dust and farmers plow the fields release fine particles into it. air.

“For nearly 20 years, the EPA has given industry a free pass to pollute, with seemingly no end in view of this immunity,” Food & Water Watch lawyer Emily Miller told EHN. “We urge the EPA to end this amnesty now and enforce clean air laws against [animal feeding operations] as he should have been doing all this time. ”

Decades of unregulated air pollution

As livestock and poultry farms in the United States began to consolidate and expand towards the end of the last century, problems with air pollution from operations peaked in the early years. 2000s.

Rather than requiring factory farm owners to apply for permits under the Clean Air Act, the EPA, under the Bush administration, instead struck a deal with representatives of the pork, egg and d ‘other animals.

The agreement, signed by the owners of more than 90% of the country’s largest feed farms, said the agency would not enforce air pollution regulations on condition that factory farm owners pay for a national study on air pollution from livestock and poultry, according to petition. The EPA would then use that data to develop emission models that would determine whether owners of specific farms should apply for Clean Air Act permits.

Related: Peak Pig – The Fight For The Soul Of Rural America

Although the deal was supposed to end in 2010, the EPA has yet to finalize these models and begin regulating air pollution for the thousands of food operations that have signed the deal. And while additional farms may not join the 2005 agreement, the EPA has also not regulated new farms, Miller said.

In 2017, the EPA’s auditor, the Office of the Inspector General, asked the agency to move forward with regulating emissions from the approximately 18,000 large animal feed operations in the States. -United, which the agency has not yet done.

Miller said the petitioners want the EPA to use a simpler method for farmers to estimate agricultural emissions, as it has done for other polluters. She noted that California, the only state to have its own program to regulate factory farm air pollution, has developed a system for estimating factory farm emissions, and said there was no reason so that the EPA cannot follow suit.

Air pollution from factory farms as an environmental injustice

Exposure to fine particles, ammonia and other types of pollution from factory farms has been linked to pneumonia, asthma, cardiovascular disease, nausea, and mental health issues, among other health problems. health. According to the PNAS study, deaths from agricultural air pollution are concentrated in rural California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the Midwest..

President Biden has said he wants to make tackling “historic and current environmental injustices” a priority for his administration.

“If Biden is serious about these commitments, then immediate action on the pollution of factory farms is essential,” Miller said.

If the EPA begins to regulate pollution from factory farms, homeowners may be required to take measures such as using scrubbers or biofilters to clean barn air or manure storage air.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency would review the petition.

Banner photo: rally in North Carolina against concentrated feed operations. (Credit: Waterkeeper Alliance Inc./flickr)

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