Update March 26, 2018: A rider that mirrors Senate Bill 2421 was included in the fiscal year 2018 spending package that the President signed into law on Friday. That rider exempts concentrated animal feeding operations from reporting hazardous air emissions. It’s an inexcusable giveaway to large agricultural interests, at the expense of rural communities and the health of those living near large livestock operations.
Communities deserve to know what’s in our air and water. But some polluting industries would rather be exempt from reporting their emissions. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are livestock feeding facilities that confine large numbers of livestock in relatively small spaces. These operations generate massive amounts of manure, which is usually stored in open lagoons nearby. The waste is known to release toxic levels of pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide — contaminants that can cause serious health effects.
Ask your senators to protect public health by requiring CAFOs to report hazardous emissions.
In 2017 Waterkeeper Alliance and a coalition of other organizations won a court case that closed a loophole exempting CAFOs from reporting releases of hazardous substances like these. To protect public safety, reporting of such toxic releases is required of most industries. Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in the air can be lethal at high amounts, and cause health impacts even in low quantities. And ammonia in the air is deposited in waterways, adding to nutrient pollution and degrading water quality.
Now with influence by industry special interests, Congress is trying to once again exempt CAFOs from reporting requirements. Senate Bill 2421 is called the “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act,” but it actually gives CAFOs a free pass to poison the air by allowing them to keep their toxic pollution a secret. The bill would not only bring back the CAFO loophole, but would expand the exemption and make it federal law.
There are approximately 1200 CAFOs in Washington State, with many located in low-income and minority communities that bear the brunt of this pollution. People living near these operations need to know when they might be exposed to toxic emissions. And some CAFOs are close to schools and public water resources. Transparency about toxic pollution should be non-negotiable. It’s time to move forward with solutions that exist today to make agriculture sustainable.
Ask Congress to stand up for the rights of Washington communities and require CAFOs to report hazardous pollution.