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Broad Coalition Petitions EPA to Regulate Ammonia Gas Pollution from Factory Farms

21 Groups: Industrial-Scale CAFO Emissions Meet Legal Standard for Listing as Clean Air Act Criteria Pollutant; Evident Public Health Threat Posed by Ammonia Emissions from Mega-farms

More than 20 national, state, and local organizations representing millions of Americans are filing an extensive petition today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), laying out a case for an “endangerment finding” for ammonia gas and requesting that EPA list ammonia as a Clean Air Act criteria pollutant.   

The criteria pollutant program requires EPA to establish air quality standards that protect public health and the environment, and has been responsible for dramatic reductions in hazardous small particles, smog-forming chemicals, and lead pollution nationwide, saving billions of dollars in health care costs.  Factory farms are the nation’s leading source of ammonia pollution, which causes respiratory health problems even at very low levels, yet air emissions from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), including toxic ammonia, have escaped Clean Air Act regulation for decades.  

The effort is led by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), and includes a diverse group of organizations that advocate for environmental protection, public health, animal welfare, and rural economies and communities.  The petitioners include such groups as the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and rural community organizations in California, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.  These organizations represent many rural Americans and family farmers who are directly affected by ammonia pollution from factory farms in their communities.

For the full text of the petition, go to http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/04_06_2011.php.

The new petition filed today at the EPA states: “Congress enacted the Clean Air Act (CAA) to protect public health from diverse sources of air pollution, and empowered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish regulations for different pollutants as scientific knowledge evolves, and the dangers they pose to human health and welfare become apparent … [A]mbient ammonia pollution currently endangers human health and welfare, and EPA has an affirmative obligation to exercise its authority to regulate sources of ammonia emissions … Ammonia gas, an air pollutant emitted in vast quantities by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), meets the criteria for listing as a CAA criteria pollutant, because ammonia emissions from numerous CAFOs and other sources ‘cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.’”   

Environmental Integrity Project Attorney Tarah Heinzen said:  “The Clean Air Act exists to protect all Americans, but it has not lived up to its promise in rural communities. This petition demonstrates that ammonia from factory farms threatens public health, diminishes quality of life, and pollutes our water, and asks EPA to write rules that will hold factory farms to the same standards as other major polluters.”  

Lynn Henning, a family farmer in Michigan said: "In Lenawee and Hillsdale counties, MI, people exposed to air from CAFOs and liquid manure applications have reported worsening asthma symptoms, requiring inhalers.  Other side effects of living near the CAFOs have included frequent, reoccurring episodes of bronchitis and cough.  Other people exposed to dairy and hog CAFOs in both counties over 10 years have reported sore throats, feeling like they were suffocating, difficulty breathing, "burning sinus" "burning eyes" and "choking" from strong emissions of ammonia." 

Scott Edwards, Director of Advocacy for the Waterkeeper Alliance, said:  “Factory farming is one of the last holdout polluting industries where our regulators still fear to tread.  These facilities create massive amounts of pollution that poison our air and watersheds. EPA cannot continue to turn a blind eye and ignore its mission to protect the environment and the welfare of communities.” 

Jonathan Lovvorn, Senior Vice President & Chief Counsel for Animal Protection Litigation at The Humane Society of the United States, said:  “Confining hundreds of thousands of animals in tiny cages at a single location is not only unconscionably cruel to farm animals, but also destroys local communities, harms wildlife, and pollutes the natural environment.” 

The petition also points out: “Several federal agencies, including EPA, have documented ammonia’s acute and chronic adverse health effects.  Numerous peer-reviewed studies further demonstrate that ambient ammonia pollution in some rural communities near CAFOs currently exceeds recommended exposure levels, and citizens living near CAFOs experience adverse health effects from CAFO air pollution, including ammonia.  Ammonia gas also reacts with other gases to form ammonium aerosols, inhalable small particles that further endanger public health.”   

On March 9, 2011, EIP released a major report showing that factory farms emit hazardous air pollutants on an industrial scale, yet have escaped regulation under the Clean Air Act and pollution reporting laws.  EIP reviewed the findings of an industry-funded EPA study that monitored ammonia, particulates, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds from CAFOs across the country.  The report found that ammonia pollution levels at some facilities exceed worker health recommendations and emissions reporting thresholds, and recommended that EPA begin regulating ammonia and other CAFO emissions under the Clean Air Act. The EIP report is available online at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/03_09_2011.php.  

The full list of petitioners includes: Environmental Integrity Project, Association of Irritated Residents, Caballo Concerned Citizens Group, Center for Food Safety, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Wisconsin, Crawford Stewardship Project, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, the Humane Society of the United States, Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Rio Valle Concerned Citizens, Sierra Club, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network, Vernon County Alliance Concerned with Environmental Safety, and Waterkeeper Alliance.


MEDIA CONTACTS:  Patrick Mitchell, for Environmental Integrity Project, at (703) 276-3266 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com  

Erin Williams, for The Humane Society of the United States, at (301) 721-6446 or ewilliams@humanesociety.org


The Environmental Integrity Project (www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws.  EIP has three goals:  1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws. 


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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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