In the wee hours on Thursday morning, the California Legislature concluded its 2021–2022 legislative session, including finalizing a months-long process of adopting the final details of the state budget and a weeks-long process of passing expansive climate policies.
One of California’s primary climate programs, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), is dramatically overstating the climate benefits of using methane gas sourced from factory farms as a transportation fuel, while illegally disregarding the disproportionate environmental and health impacts that dairy digesters inflict on low-income communities and communities of color.
Today, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Association of Irritated Residents (represented by the Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic and Public Justice Food Project), Food & Water Watch, and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to exclude polluting factory farm-derived methane from the LCFS or amend the credit system to better account for the actual climate impact of using factory farm-generated methane as a transportation fuel.
As currently formulated, the credit system overstates the emission reduction benefits of factory farm gas by failing to account for the fuel’s life-cycle emissions — from crop production, intestinal emissions and animal feed to the disposal of manure and pipeline leaks. Factory farms exploit this system, using public dollars to subsidize the construction of dairy digesters, while also receiving millions for the credits sold through the LCFS.
CARB established the LCFS as part of a comprehensive set of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. The program is designed to encourage the use of cleaner low-carbon transportation fuels in California, encourage the production of those fuels, and therefore, decrease petroleum dependence in transportation. Unfortunately as applied to factory farm gas generation, the program perpetuates patterns of pollution in lower income, communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley.
The inclusion of factory farm gas in the LCFS perversely incentivizes increased greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from dairy and pig farms by incentivizing increased manure production. Expanding the creation of methane for factory farm gas puts the health of local, low-income communities and communities of color at greater risk. Concentrating livestock and their waste will only intensify the amount of air and water pollution already impacting San Joaquin Valley communities.
California’s climate programs should be incentivizing real solutions, not throwing millions at pollution pits that harm Califronians. Factory farm gas is a dirty, dead end blocking us from a clean energy future. We need a holistic approach to manure management that addresses methane, groundwater quality, and air quality for communities in the San Joaquin Valley and throughout the country.