Why Is Congress Bending Over Backwards to Protect Polluters?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Days after the United Nations released startling new data showing that agriculture’s contribution to climate change is getting worse, the House and Senate Appropriations committees approved spending bills that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from monitoring and regulating greenhouse gas emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The manure generated by 450,000 cow, pig and chicken feeding operations in the U.S. is 13 times the amount produced by humans. This mountain of animal waste is not only bad for water quality but also causes air pollution and climate change.

The newly updated data from the UN show that global greenhouse emissions from agriculture increased at a greater rate in 2014 than emissions from burning fossil fuels for energy. More than half of agriculture’s climate impact is attributed to methane released by livestock and their manure.


Emissions by Sector (Avg. 1994-2014)


Data: Courtesy of UN Food and Agriculture Organization Statistics Division



EPA is currently allowed to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer usage. But both the House and Senate spending bills contain policy riders, included in seven previous appropriations measures, that would continue to prohibit the agency from requiring that CAFOs quantify and report the greenhouse gas emissions coming from their operations and manure pits.  These measures would also bar the EPA from using its authority under the Clean Air Act to cap emissions from livestock.

Many farmers are doing their part to protect the environment and reduce farm pollution, but most are not. That’s because the incentives are backwards.  Producers are largely exempt from having to comply with basic environmental laws.

Given the mounting scientific evidence that proves that farm pollution plays a major role in climate change, Congress should focus on closing the loopholes for polluters, not bending over backwards to expand them. 


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