For the past three years, dairy producer Rob Hilarides has been working toward his goal of building a 9,000-cow dairy and cheesemaking facility near Lindsay, Calif. Tomorrow, when the Tulare County Board of Supervisors is set to take action on his special-use permit, he’ll either get the go ahead, or encounter yet another road block in this grueling battle.

However, not everyone believes that Hildares’ plan is a good one. Some neighbors stand opposed, and an environmental group, which some refer to as a thorn in the side of the dairy industry, are currently appealing a ruling by the Tulare County Planning Commission that approved Hilarides’ permit and advanced it to the Board of Supervisors. The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment has taken legal action to block permit approvals for new and expanding dairies throughout the San Joaquin Valley for the past few years.

This upcoming decision is huge because it’s the first permit in three years that has made it up for a final vote in Tulare County. Currently 85 permits for new dairies and expansions are pending. Several lawsuits have shut down the permitting processes while the county wrote new regulations for setting up dairies and dealt with each individual lawsuit.

CRPE claims that if the county approves the permit it will be in violation of their settlement agreement from last summer. After the new dairy siting regulations were released, CRPE sued the county says the countywide environmental impact report was not comprehensive enough. In the settlement, reached in June 2001, the county agreed to analyze the cumulative effects that dairies have on air quality and groundwater and to look for ways to prevent air and water contamination from dairies. CRPE says the county has not completed this additional report.

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Visalia Times-Delta