Methane Digesters and Biogas Recovery - Masking the Environmental Consequences of Industrial Concentrated Livestock Production

By Di Camillo, Nicole G. | UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Methane Digesters and Biogas Recovery - Masking the Environmental Consequences of Industrial Concentrated Livestock Production


Di Camillo, Nicole G., UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. METHANE DIGESTERS AND BIOGAS RECOVERY--IN THE SPOTLIGHT
     A. Digesters Have Received Attention for Their
        Potential to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions
        from Livestock Production Facilities
     B. How Digesters Work--Their Potential for Environmental
        Benefits" and Renewable Energy Production
     C. Critiques of Digesters--Pollution Problems and
        Applicability Limited to Large CAFO-Style Facilities
        1. Digesters Release "Traditional" Air Pollutants
        2. Digesters Do Not Address the Large
           Quantities of Manure Generated by Large
           Scale Livestock Production
        3. Digesters are Expensive to Install and are
           Typically Only Cost-Effective for Large,
           CAFO-Scale Facilities

III. EVEN BEYOND MANURE-ASSOCIATED METHANE EMISSIONS, INDUSTRIAL
     LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS ARE MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO GREENHOUSE GAS
     EMISSIONS
     A. Methane from Manure Accounts for a Relatively Small Portion of
        Livestock Associated Methane Emissions
     B. An Analysis of The Livestock Industry's Entire
        "Chain of Supply" Reveals Enormous
        Contributions to Greenhouse Gas Emissions
        1. Feed Crop Production
        2. Land Use Changes Associated with Feed
           Crop Production Contribute to Greenhouse
           Gas Emissions
        3. The Final Stages--Fossil Fuel Use in
           Processing, Storing and Transport of Feed
           and Consumer Products Results in the
           Release of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
     C. Subsidies for Digesters Distract from the Broad
        Range of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated
        with Industrial Livestock Production

 IV. THE INDUSTRIAL LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY'S CONTRIBUTION TO "TRADITIONAL
     POLLUTANTS" AND REGULATION UNDER EXISTING ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
     A. The Environmental Consequences of Industrial
        Livestock Production
        1. Environmental Consequences of Manure
        2. Other Environmental and Health
           Consequences Stemming from CAFOs
     B. Traditional Pollution Control Laws-Regulation of CAFOs Should
        be Secured and Expanded Under the Clean Air Act and Clean
        Water Act
        1. Air Pollution--CAFOs' Contribution to
           Air Pollution Warrant Regulation Under
           the Clean Air Act
        2. Water Pollution--CAFOs' Contributions to
           Water Pollution and Contamination
           Warrant More Stringent Regulation Under
           the Clean Water Act
     C. Digesters and Other "Technological Fixes" Can
        Dovetail with Increased Regulation of CAFOs,
        but Should Not "Greenwash" CAFOs'
        Environmental Practices
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

As climate change becomes a prominent focus in environmental protection policy, the agriculture sector's role in greenhouse gas emissions is gaining attention. It has become clear that agriculture, and livestock production in particular, are major worldwide contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and government agencies are seeking solutions to deal with these emissions. Methane digesters ("digesters"), alternatively referred to as "dairy digesters" or "anaerobic digesters," are being promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and tile U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from intensive livestock and dairy operations; the accompanying biogas recovery systems are promoted as an auspicious source of renewable energy production from such facilities. Digesters, marketed as an alternative waste management technology, ostensibly mitigate methane emissions caused by the high concentration of livestock manure stored on such facilities. They capture the methane that is released as a result of anaerobic bacterial digestion of manure, which can subsequently be burned as an alternative biogas fuel source, potentially providing economic and environmental benefits. …

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