Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Environmental Lawsuits Could Force Livestock Industry Changes

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Environmental Lawsuits Could Force Livestock Industry Changes

Article excerpt

A lawsuit to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ammonia and other emissions from livestock operations could force major changes to the Kansas livestock industry, if it succeeds.

The Environmental Integrity Project; Humane Society of the United States; Center for Food Safety; Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment; Friends of the Earth; Sierra Club; and groups from Wisconsin, California and Iowa who claim nearby animal operations have caused them to have breathing problems filed two lawsuits against the EPA in late January. Tarah Heinzen, staff attorney for EIP, said the goal is to force the EPA to respond to petitions they had filed in 2009 and 2011.

The first lawsuit argues EPA has unreasonably delayed responding to EIP's petition asking it to develop rules to regulate ammonia emissions from all sources, though livestock operations are the largest source, Heinzen said. The second lawsuit relates to a petition asking EPA to set hourly limits for all forms of pollution emitted by concentrated animal feeding operations, because different types of pollution react to create worse health effects than each pollutant on its own, she said. The EPA defines whether a facility is a CAFO for purposes of the Clean Water Act based on the number of animals it confines and whether it discharges waste to a waterway.

While ammonia itself is mostly an annoyance because of its smell, it can react in the atmosphere to form "fine particulate matter," particles about 1/30th the width of a human hair that can get lodged in the lungs and raise a person's risk of lung and heart disease over time, according to research funded by NASA. Areas with higher ammonia emissions don't always have the highest risk of those fine particles, however, because of meteorological conditions and the fact that areas with large amounts of livestock often aren't close to pollution from cars or power plants that would form the other portion of the particle. …

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