New Executive Order from Governor Brown directing agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should apply to emissions from mega-dairies
In April the Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition, a broad coalition including Friends of Family Farmers and other environmental, food safety, and animal welfare organizations, released a letter calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) to include mega-dairy emissions control in their new rulemaking plan. The plan is required under Governor Brown’s new Executive Order 20-04, which directs state agencies to propose how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by May 15, 2020.
The Executive Order comes on the heels of the Oregon Legislature’s failure to pass a climate bill in the 2020 short session earlier this year following a Republican walkout. Governor Brown’s Executive Order requires agencies to do everything within their authority to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035. Despite repeated requests for action, mega-dairy emissions have never been meaningfully addressed in any policy solutions for climate change.
“While Friends of the Columbia Gorge is excited that Gov. Brown is taking this unprecedented action, the DEQ must ensure the result does not ultimately degrade the air quality of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. More mega-dairies on the doorstep of the Gorge would contribute to air quality problems that threaten scenic views, human health, and the environment. The DEQ must hold the line.” said Steve McCoy, Staff Attorney at Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
Emissions from mega-dairies include toxic and volatile greenhouses such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide that contribute to climate change. The large quantities of manure mega-dairies produce are also a significant source of air pollution that contributes to regional haze in the Columbia River Gorge. This renewed call to address mega-dairy emissions comes as ODEQ and the Oregon Department of Agriculture consider a permit application for a new mega-dairy in Morrow County, on the site of the disastrous Lost Valley Farm.
“Policymakers want to ignore it but industrial-scale animal operations including mega-dairies are huge contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Brian Posewitz, director of Humane Voters Oregon. “Converting some of the animal waste to biogas won’t solve the problem and in fact has the perverse effect incentivizing more factory farms.”
“If Oregon is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s essential that mega-dairies be held accountable. Biogas digesters are not a solution. Biogas digesters encourage industrial dairy operations to grow larger, which increases agricultural emissions. This band-aid fix ignores true solutions,” said Erin Eberle, Director of Engagement at Farm Forward.
“DEQ has overlooked mega-dairy emissions for decades, but cannot continue to avoid this industry’s climate change pollution in light of the Governor’s Executive Order. DEQ must propose real plans to reduce factory farm emissions without further delay,” said Tarah Heinzen, Senior Attorney with Food & Water Watch.
“In Oregon, we cannot repeat the federal government’s failure to address carbon emissions from animal agriculture, especially industrial mega-dairies. We know better and we must hold our state policymakers to a higher standard,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety.