If all goes well, the program will be evaluated for the next 12 months, then a formal plan will be adopted, which will contain a requirement that all dairies submit air-quality management plans to the agency for review and implementation.
As the newspaper editorialized, “The critics at times have put dairies on the defensive and agency officials on edge. It’s fair to say that this step would not have come about without the critics raising a stink, and their criticism goes back years.”
Of course, national standards are also under development, and Washington State University is taking part in a study to determine safe levels of emissions from animal feeding operations, the result of a 2006 consent agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the animal production industries. If that study leads to tougher federal emission standards enforced by the EPA, local clean air agency would be required to comply.
The EPA agreement was crafted specifically to address “emissions of air pollutants and hazardous substances from certain animal feeding operations that may be subject to requirements of the Clean Air Act, the hazardous substance release notification provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the emergency notification provisions of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.”
The goal is reduction of both VOCs (volatile organic compounds), hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and particulates contained in dust and debris generated by an animal agriculture operation.
The newspaper editorial stated it best: “Something likely is coming, and it’s better if that something is an effective local solution. It’s in the best interests of the industry and the clean air agency to be above-board and transparent in assembling and evaluating the data.
“Dairies may chafe at these steps—nobody likes to be told how to run their business—but if done right this process can ensure that their operations can keep playing their key role in the [local] economy with a minimum of disruption.”
Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air?
Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator