The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Phoebe Galt

Groups Renew Call to End Federal Amnesty for Factory Farm Air Polluters

State Regulators Now Using EPA Delay to Justify Inaction

Today, 24 advocacy organizations renewed their demand of EPA to end a decades-old amnesty agreement allowing factory farms to escape federal enforcement of clean air laws. It has been eighteen months since the groups filed a legal petition urging EPA to begin regulating factory farm air pollution, with no response. The renewed call to action is particularly urgent as state air regulators in Oregon use the federal amnesty agreement to shirk their own obligations to enforce air quality laws against factory farm polluters.

Across the country, including in Oregon, low income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of the environmental justice burdens caused by air pollution at factory farms, including serious health and respiratory problems, unbearable odors, and overall worse quality of life. For months, EPA has rebuffed meeting requests from those hardest hit by these environmental and public health harms.

In August, Food & Water Watch and 21 allied organizations petitioned the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to regulate air pollution from the state’s largest dairy operations, as required under the Clean Air Act. Though expressly acknowledging that several unpermitted dairies were operating in violation of the Clean Air Act due to their emissions, Oregon used EPA’s amnesty deal to justify continued inaction.

Emily Miller, staff attorney at Food & Water Watch and lead author of the Oregon air petition issued the following statement:

“Factory farms are dangerous polluters that never deserved a sweetheart deal with EPA — much less a deal that seemingly has no end in sight. And now Oregon is making matters worse by improperly using EPA’s inaction as an excuse to shirk its own duty to regulate these harmful emissions. Enough is enough. EPA must end the Air Consent Agreement before more states go down this path.”


Over 18 years ago, EPA struck a deal with factory farm polluters, agreeing to refrain from enforcing key air pollution control and public disclosure laws like the Clean Air Act against animal feeding operations (AFOs) who signed up for the sweetheart arrangement. In exchange, participating operations agreed to fund a nationwide air monitoring study that was supposed to help EPA develop more accurate emissions estimating methodologies for AFOs. The emission models were intended to allow EPA and citizens to calculate factory farm’s pollution and begin enforcing clean air laws.

Nearly 14,000 AFOs signed up for this sweetheart deal, known as the Air Consent Agreement, which, by its own terms, should have been completed in 2010. Yet, due in part to the fundamentally flawed ways in which EPA designed, ran, and used the data collected from the air monitoring study, the agency has yet to finalize any methodologies or end the Air Consent Agreement. The deal in no way impacts a state’s ability or obligation to regulate these pollution sources, nor does it require state regulators to use the emission models EPA develops.

The Petitioners include: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (Arkansas), Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water for North Carolina (North Carolina), Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment (California), Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Farm Aid, Friends of the Earth, Friends of Family Farmers (Oregon), Friends of Toppenish Creek (Washington), Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, Humane Society of the United States, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa), Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, North Carolina Conservation Network (North Carolina), Public Justice, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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