Coalition Asks EPA to Regulate Emissions From Factory Farms

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 (EPA) seeking to regulate air pollution from factory farms.  

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.

“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 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.

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. However, the EPA does not currently require these animal factories to meet any testing, performance or emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

The petition states that 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, petitioners say..

“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 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.

The petition can be downloaded at the link below.

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