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September 21, 2009

Coalition Asks EPA to Regulate Greenhouse Gases, Other Toxic Air Pollutants from Factory Farms

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of environmental and public health organizations filed a legal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to regulate air pollution from factory farms.

The petitioners joining The HSUS include Association of Irritated Residents; Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; Clean Air Task Force; Dairy Education Alliance; El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart; Environmental Integrity Project; Friends of the Earth; and Waterkeeper Alliance.

"Unregulated air pollution from massive factory farms has a devastating impact on human health and the environment," says Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation and Research at The HSUS. "The EPA should hold these big agribusiness corporations accountable for the enormous harm they are inflicting on local communities, independent family farmers and the environment."

The 69-page petition provides detailed scientific and legal information about the significant emissions of methane and nitrous oxide — two greenhouse gases — as well as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from factory farms, and how all of these pollutants have been shown to have negative effects on human health and welfare, including adverse effects on climate and the environment in the United States.

The petition further explains how reducing emissions of major pollutants from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are massive industrial facilities confining thousands or even millions of animals in warehouse-like conditions, will improve human health, reduce suffering of farm animals, protect habitat for wildlife and reduce the effects of climate change and other environmental problems. Regulating air pollution from CAFOs will also create a strong incentive for new CAFOs to employ production methods that reduce emissions.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has deemed the livestock sector "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."  This same report found that animal agriculture was responsible for contributing 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than even the transport sector. 

In the United States, confined farm animals produce 500 million tons of waste every year, more than 3.3 times the amount of waste created by humans. Nevertheless, the EPA does not currently require these animal factories to meet any testing, performance or emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

CAFOs economically harm small family farms engaging in practices that are better for animal welfare and more environmentally sustainable. These independent farmers cannot financially compete with large factory farms, which cut corners and jeopardize environmental and public health. Forcing factory farms to comply with environmental and health standards would level the playing field and help small farmers become more competitive.

"Our lungs and the future of our planet are not animal factory subsidies," said Tom Fratz, president of the Association of Irritated Residents and a resident of the San Joaquin Valley, an air basin in California with more than 2.6 million dairy cows. "President Obama promised us during the election that he would protect rural residents from this pollution and we expect EPA to keep that promise."

"Hog lots and other factory farms aren't just stinky, they're also destabilizing our climate," said Kate McMahon of Friends of the Earth. "The EPA has a legal obligation to protect the public by cracking down on this economic and public health threat — a threat that has yet to be addressed by climate legislation pending in Congress."

"The people who live in the communities devastated by unregulated air pollution from animal factories deserve protection," said Charlie Tebbutt of the Western Environmental Law Center and co-chair of the Dairy Education Alliance. "Implementing this petition will get animal factories into the Clean Air Act process and give communities better opportunities to protect themselves."

"Through global warming and deposition, the toxic emissions from industrial animal operations have profoundly impacted our water resources," said Hannah Connor of Waterkeeper Alliance. "By actively regulating the emissions from this industry, EPA will be taking a positive step towards protecting and enhancing not only the quality of our nation's air resources, but also the quality of our nation's water resources, and the public health and welfare of our communities."  

Facts:

  • Over the last several decades, increasing numbers of animals are being warehoused in fewer, but larger, operations, in which many of them are intensively confined in small spaces such as battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates.
  • The increased waste and emissions associated with factory farming result in air pollution that contributes to climate change, causes serious public health concerns and harms the environment.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations deemed the animal agriculture sector "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." This same report, Livestock's Long Shadow, found that global meat, egg and milk production generate more greenhouse gas emissions than even the transport sector.
  • Pollution from farm animal production is only continuing to increase, making emissions from CAFOs some of the nation's largest sources of pollution.
  • Despite clear evidence that CAFOs significantly contribute to emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, the EPA does not require CAFOs to meet any testing, performance or emission standards under the Clean Air Act.
  • Numerous scientific surveys, including the U.S. Inventory Report adopted by the EPA, establish that CAFOs meet the standards for regulation under section 111 of the Clean Air Act as a source that causes or contributes significantly to air pollution which endangers public health and welfare. 

Read The HSUS' report, Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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