Public-health Experts Urge Oregon Lawmakers to Reduce Air Pollution From Large-scale Dairy Operations

For Immediate Release, February 28, 2017

Contact: Ivan Maluski, Friends of Family Farmers, (503) 449-2279, ivan@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org
Charles K. Johnson, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, (503) 777-2794, chuck@oregonpsr.org  
Amy van Saun, Center for Food Safety, (971) 271-7372avansaun@centerforfoodsafety.org
Hannah Connor, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 681-1676, hconnor@biologicaldiversity.org

Senate Bill 197 Would Address Dangerous Emissions Such as Methane

SALEM, Ore.— More than 25 doctors, epidemiologists and health experts today called on Oregon legislators to support Senate Bill 197 and establish commonsense measures  to limit dangerous air pollution from large-scale industrial dairy operations. In a letter sent to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the group cited “strong evidence” that emissions from massive livestock confinement operations can be harmful to public health and the environment.

In their letter the health experts stressed that “exposure to these pollutants can cause significant health problems, including respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, pulmonary disease, asthma, and respiratory distress syndrome; irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat; neuropsychological abnormalities; memory loss; and heart disease, and can even lead to death.”

“We Oregonians are increasingly aware of the risks of air pollution, including greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, to our environment, health and livelihoods,” said Dr. Andy Harris with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The unregulated and preventable release of air pollutants from industrial dairy operations compounds this problem, increasing the chance of asthma and other public-health effects and contributing to climate change-related declines in our shell fish industry.”

The Senate bill requires that state agencies establish a dairy emissions program by January 2019 after considering input from stakeholders and the public.

In response to growing air-pollution concerns associated with large, industrial dairy operations, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2007 creating the Oregon Task Force on Dairy Air Quality. The task force — made up stakeholders that included dairy industry representatives — was charged with studying and addressing harmful air emissions from dairy operations.

In 2008 the task force issued a report “strongly” urging the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to work with the state’s Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Human Services to adopt rules for a state dairy-emissions program. Along with reducing harmful air emissions from dairies, the program would work to prevent the development of additional threats to public health and the environment, and to lessen the impacts of industrial dairy operations on surrounding communities.

“The consensus recommendations of Oregon’s Dairy Air Quality Task Force a decade ago could not have been more clear: Oregon needs a program to reduce harmful air emissions from large dairies while protecting the viability of Oregon’s remaining family-scale dairy farmers,” said Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers. We also need strong rules in place to prevent new industrial-scale dairies from coming to Oregon because it’s easy to pollute.”

Despite unprecedented support from family farmers, the dairy industry, conservation groups and public-health professionals, the task force’s 2007 recommendations have yet to be implemented. Now, as the state considers approving an industrial dairy operation in Morrow County that would be one of the nation’s largest, new concerns have arisen over Oregon’s lack of air-quality rules.

“Given the state’s failure to put sensible measures in place to control dangerous air pollution from large industrial dairy operations, Oregonians have good reason to be deeply concerned about the 30,000-cow mega-dairy proposed in the Umatilla River Basin,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Senate Bill 197 provides critical tools to protect thousands of Oregonians from the harmful aerial contaminants continuously released by these large dairy facilities.”

Senate Bill 197 is supported by Oregon’s leading advocates for family farms, public and environmental health and animal welfare, including Friends of Family Farmers, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Humane Oregon, Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity and The Humane Society of the United States.


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