CA Farm Bureau to Challenge EPA Ruling

California Farm Bureau


 - The California Farm Bureau intervened in a judicial review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco today to support a federal decision to allow time to generate data on air quality emissions from farms. The review examines the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to grant farmers three years to study applicability of Title V of the federal Clean Air Act. The court is reviewing a lawsuit by environmental activist groups aimed at removing the agricultural deferral.

Farm Bureau, the state's largest family farm organization, supports the EPA deferral of permits on agricultural operations for three years while information is collected to determine the extent of emissions from production agricultural sources.

"EPA recommended the deferral of regulatory action on agriculture until ongoing and planned studies are completed that could provide a more accurate overview of agricultural emissions," said Cynthia Cory, CFBF director of environmental affairs. "The California Air Resources Board agrees that sufficient information does not exist to include agricultural sources in the Title V permit program. Regulations should be based on sound science and reliable data. The three-year moratorium should go forward until these two objectives are met."

Title V is a permit program under the Clean Air Act that regulates large stationary sources that release pollutants into the air. Permits require businesses to provide information on the type and quantity of pollutants being released, steps taken to mitigate the releases and monitoring. In December 2001, federal officials approved the state's Title V permit program in 34 air districts. The EPA deferred requiring permits for agricultural operations for a three-year period because they are not like traditional industrial sources.

Cory said that several studies are underway to develop necessary data on agricultural emissions, including studies by the National Academy of Sciences and work by EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "EPA states that it considers it ambitious to evaluate existing science, improve on assessment tools, collect additional data, remove any remaining legal obstacles, and issue any necessary guidance within the three-year deferral time period," said Cory. "We're not sitting back in the meantime. Farmers are adopting voluntary emission control strategies, where possible, to reduce emissions."

Two Farm Bureau members, Craig Pedersen of Lemoore and Carlos Estacio of Turlock, were named as individual interveners on behalf of Farm Bureau. Pedersen grows a wide variety of commodities and has a number of irrigation pumps. He has used state matching funds to retrofit a number of his pumps, but because of a severe farm crisis, he has not been able to upgrade all of his pumps at once due to the high cost.

Pedersen said that pumps used to irrigate his fields only run periodically during the growing season. He said many agricultural engines have been retrofitted to increase efficiency and to reduce emissions, and data collection will help quantify the progress that has been made.

"Emissions from agricultural sources are likely to be far less than what many believe," said Pedersen. "Imposing regulations on farmers like me before the data are generated would force added costs on my operation at a time when other input costs are going through the roof. It's not too much to ask that regulations be based on sound science." Estacio operates a dairy and grows other crops. He said the potential impact on animal operations could be significant if regulations are imposed arbitrarily without sufficient analysis and review.

"The state Air Resources Board has stated that the data it has on emissions from livestock sources is dated and incomplete," said Estacio. "We take steps on the dairy to reduce dust and odors. We are willing to do our part to obtain clean air, but we want it based on current data, not assumptions."

A court briefing on the issue is currently scheduled for April 29. Federal officials have until May 28 to respond to the submitted documents. The California Farm Bureau represents more than 95,000 member families in 56 counties.


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