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Lawsuit challenges CA county’s plan to limit GHG from cattle operations


January 17, 2018, Visalia, CA – Conservation groups sued Tulare County recently for approving a climate action plan for feedlots and other cattle operations that could worsen air quality and undercut California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the county’s climate-action plan and animal-confinement facilities plan until officials identify steps to cut pollution from industrial dairies and feedlots and disclose the true environmental and financial costs of those emissions.

“I’ve seen firsthand how air pollution from industrial dairies leads to health problems like headaches in my own family,” said Tom Frantz, executive director of Association of Irritated Residents and an almond farmer in the San Joaquin Valley. “Tulare County must take stronger steps to protect people in the community. Six thousand animals in one dairy have the waste stream of a city of half a million people, and there are common sense ways to reduce the air pollution from dairies that the county overlooks.”

Tulare County is home to more than one million cattle and produces more milk than any other U.S. county.

Cattle operations in the county produce the equivalent of 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – approximately 63 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. By 2023, that number is expected to grow to the equivalent of almost nine million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“Tulare County has to stop ignoring the unhealthy reality that dairies and feedlots release nearly two-thirds of the county’s greenhouse pollution,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of protecting public health, county officials are sabotaging efforts to curb climate change’s devastating effects.”

The groups note that the county’s Dairy and Feedlot Climate Action Plan and Animal Confinement Facilities Plan undermine California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. According to the groups, the plans allow cattle operations to avoid setting mandatory emissions reduction targets for the livestock sector and avoid enforceable mitigation for these operations.

“It’s shocking that in 2018 the industrial dairy and feedlot industry is still receiving special treatment under these climate action plans despite the industry’s notorious role in driving climate change,” said Gordon Nipp of the Sierra Club. “This lawsuit seeks to hold this industry accountable by ensuring that common-sense measures are put in place to meaningfully acknowledge, address and limit the greenhouse gas emissions from this sector.”

Methods to reduce air, greenhouse gas and water pollution from industrial cattle operations include enclosing manure during storage and spreading appropriate levels of manure on fields. Using “dry scrape” systems instead of “wet flush” systems to move manure out of feeding and milking barns avoids excess water use and reduces air and water pollution from open manure lagoons.

The lawsuit was filed in Tulare County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Association for Irritated Residents under the California Environmental Quality Act.