Oregon Environmental Quality Commission Denies Proposal to Adopt Mega-Dairy Air Pollution Rules 

The decision ignores the environmental and public health threats, and overwhelming public support for action

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Food System

Today, The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission denied a rulemaking petition to regulate harmful air emissions from industrial dairy operations. The petition was submitted by Food & Water Watch and 21 other organizations representing environmental, public health, family farm, community, and animal welfare interests.

The public overwhelmingly supported the petition’s goal of creating an air permitting program to control and reduce dairy air emissions in Oregon; 95% of the over 1,600 public comments received strongly supported the petition. The Commission nevertheless determined that despite the real threat to the environment and public health, imposing common sense regulations on this virtually unregulated and polluting industry was “premature.” 

As far back as 2008, a state-convened Dairy Air Quality Task Force strongly recommended a dairy air emissions regulatory program like that proposed by petitioners, and rejected by the Commission today. 

“In denying the petition, the Environmental Quality Commission is ignoring the serious consequences of unregulated emissions from Oregon’s dairies on our health, communities and climate,” said Emily Miller, staff attorney at Food & Water Watch and lead author of the petition. “The Department of Environmental Quality admits that dairy air pollution is a problem in Oregon, particularly for environmental justice communities in which these operations are disproportionately sited. It further acknowledges that it has the legal authority to implement the dairy air emissions program as proposed. Nevertheless, it wants to keep kicking the can down the road instead of taking long overdue action. There is absolutely no valid reason to reject common sense regulations that would protect Oregonians from toxic emissions like ammonia, methane and fine particulate matter.”

“Rural Oregonians deserve healthy air. Now all eyes are on the Oregon Legislature to act swiftly to protect public health. DEQ and EQC’s decision to put industrial dairy farm special interests above public health underscores the need for elected officials to step in and protect communities impacted by dairy industrial farm pollution,” stated Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper.

“If this was any other industry polluting the air, the commission would have followed the overwhelming science and law and acted to protect public health and wildlife,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at Center for Biological Diversity. “Air pollution is equally harmful regardless of whether it comes from a factory farm or a power plant, yet Oregon continues to give factory farm operations a free pass to pollute. We expected better.”

The petitioners are Food & Water Watch, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Friends of Family Farmers, Beyond Toxics, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Comunidades Amplifying Voices for Environmental and Social Justice, Pendleton Community Action Alliance, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Environment Oregon, Humane Voters Oregon, 350 Eugene, 350 Deschutes, Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Farm Forward, Farm Sanctuary, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mercy for Animals, Public Justice Foundation, and World Animal Protection.