The Associated Press
MERCED — The California Farm Bureau has intervened in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to stop a three-year air pollution exemption granted to farms.
The suit was filed against the federal Environmental Protection Agency in February after it extended the state’s agriculture exemption for another three years. Environmentalists say the exemption is illegal under the federal Clean Air Act, which requires all major pollution sources to seek federal permits.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the suit. Under the intervention process, judges would be required to consider legal briefs submitted by the Farm Bureau in their final judgment.
The Farm Bureau supports the EPA extension, saying there is no scientific proof that agriculture is a major source of pollution.
Scientists first need to quantify the amount of pollution generated before regulating farm emissions, said Cynthia Cory, the Farm Bureau’s director of environmental affairs.
“What are (farms) emitting, are they emitting enough, does it warrant changes?” she said. “Does it warrant permitting, does it require changing?”
Kevin Hall, air pollution director for the Sierra Club’s Tehipite chapter, a plaintiff in the suit, said the Farm Bureau is trying to derail the process.
“The continuing refrain that we need more science is an empty one,” he said. “The science is in, the sources are known. It’s time to get to work on the problem.”
Brent Newell, an attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment representing two environmental groups in the suit, said Tuesday the agricultural exemption unfairly excludes an entire industry.
“Industrial agriculture pollutes like industry and should be regulated as such,” he said.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has emission studies of air pollution from agricultural sources, but the study is several years old and needs improving, said Evan Shipp, a district air pollution meteorologist.