Late Monday, the dairy industry and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District finally came to an agreement on how to apply a California clean-air law that requires large dairies to get air operating permits. 

The dispute stemmed from enforcement of California’s Senate Bill 700, which negated the ag industry's long-standing exemption from air permits.

District officials claimed they were only following the law when they asked dairies to acquire permits. But Dairy industry representatives maintained that dairy owners did not have to get permits until scientific studies were finished and the California Air Resources Board and local air districts developed new regulations — based on the latest research findings and not on the outdated standards currently in use.

However, according to Monday’s agreement, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will be able to issue permits to dairies, but it must delay enforcement and costly compliance requirements until those scientific emission studies are complete. 

The new studies (see the September 2004 issue of Dairy Herd Management) should wrap up sometime next year. It is expected that the research will lower the estimated emission level from dairies, meaning that some dairies will be excluded from the permitting process that would have otherwise been required to comply.

The district also agreed to form an advisory group to keep track of the various studies. The group’s mission is to work with district leaders to figure out the best ways to control dairy emissions. The advisory group will include district and dairy industry officials as well as other individuals with dairy and air quality expertise.

Fresno Bee