The battle over when dairy producers have to comply with air quality rules is headed to Fresno County Superior Court. Dairy groups have filed suit against the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District seeking to stop the district from forcing producers to get air quality permits by July 1.

Dairy producers contend that SB 700, which removed ag’s exemption from air quality laws and requires dairies to get air pollution control permits, gives dairy producers two years to do so. The California dairy industry argues that the law gives producers until July 1, 2005 to finish the dairy emission studies currently underway by researchers at the University of California in Fresno and in Davis. It then gives local air districts until July 1, 2006 to develop regulations based on the new emissions data.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District believes SB 700 requires that all farms and dairies that emit more than 12.5 tons of pollution-forming chemicals each year must apply for a permit by July 1. This would affect 1,000 dairies with more than 1,954 cows each and up to 4,000 farms with more than 300 acres that use internal-combustion engines.

The Alliance of Western Milk Producers and the Western United Dairymen have filed briefs asking the court to decide who is right.

The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment has said it stands ready to intervene legally and support the air district in this fight if necessary.

Sacramento Bee, Tri-Valley Herald