Environmental justice coalition and communities support legislative effort to address incentives for methane production in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Assembly Bill 2870 would require the California Air Resources Board to correct its inaccurate characterization of factory farm gas as the lowest carbon fuel by requiring it to eliminate avoided methane emissions from livestock manure in its calculation of carbon intensity as part of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2024

MEDIA CONTACTS
Jill Hindenach, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, 202-494-6309, jhindenach@leadershipcounsel.org
Liam Fitzpatrick, California Environmental Justice Alliance, 203-219-0049, liam@caleja.org

MERCED, CA — California’s flagship climate program is overvaluing environmental benefits of fuel derived from livestock manure, creating harmful and nonsensical preferences for these fuels over clear alternatives and incentivizing the production of methane and other contaminants. In response, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced legislation this week to ensure California gets the math right on the costs of factory farm gas production and deployment to our climate and public health.

Assembly Bill 2870 would require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to correct its inaccurate characterization of factory farm gas as the lowest carbon fuel by requiring it to eliminate avoided methane emissions from livestock manure in its calculation of carbon intensity as part of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The bill is co-sponsored by Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, an environmental justice group based in the San Joaquin Valley working with impacted communities, and the California Environmental Justice Alliance, a statewide community-led alliance working to achieve environmental justice by advancing policy solutions.

“The State of California should not be incentivizing the production of methane,” stated Assemblymember Muratsuchi, former Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies. “Massive dairy methane farms are the biggest polluters in the San Joaquin Valley, which has the worst air quality in the nation. Aside from methane, these industrial dairy farms produce nitrous oxide, ammonia, and particulate pollution, as well as poisoning the water and land for low income and immigrant Valley residents. AB 2870 will end the state’s practice of incentivizing dairy farms to increase their pollution.”

“CARB’s current approach to evaluating the carbon intensity of fuel derived from livestock methane ignores that managing manure in massive manure pits that maximize methane emissions is a choice, not an inevitability, and even encourages and incentivizes that practice,” said Phoebe Seaton, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability co-director. “CARB’s approach also disregards how its overvaluation of fuel derived from livestock manure has dire implications for the communities in the watersheds and airsheds of dairy and swine facilities.”

Fuel produced from livestock manure is extremely polluting in its production and deployment. Big dairy facilities in California are one of the largest sources of ammonia and volatile organic compounds, and the largest source of nitrate pollution of groundwater in the region. The San Joaquin Valley communities where dairies dominate have percentages of people of color far above, and median incomes far below, the state’s average. 

The region is also the most polluted air basin for fine particles and one of the most polluted air basins for ozone in the country.  By incentivizing methane production, California risks the commodification of methane — creating a future where industrial farms produce manure simply to increase their profit margins. AB 2870 would head off that disastrous outcome.    

“Thank you Assemblymember Muratsuchi for introducing this common-sense change to the LCFS so it can achieve its goals without sacrificing our community. For years, we’ve endured pollution from a dairy that keeps expanding, and we’re not alone,” said David Rodriguez, Planada community resident and Central Valley Defenders of Clean Air and Water representative. “More cows and more manure mean more air and water pollution, as well as water usage in a region that is already severely overdrafted.”

Communities near dairies aren’t the only ones affected by the LCFS program’s preference for fuel derived from livestock manure. Refineries, also disproportionately located in lower-income communities of color, are currently taking advantage of the program by pairing fossil fuel derived hydrogen with credits from factory farm gas, resulting in fossil hydrogen being considered carbon-negative. Increasingly, CARB supports the production of hydrogen directly from livestock gas, and also considers this hydrogen carbon-negative, generating a significantly low carbon intensity score despite the significant pollution and immense greenhouse gas emissions.

“Frontline communities like mine in Richmond are looking for these sources of pollution to go away. We have the second largest refinery in the state of California, the oldest refinery on the West Coast, and it’s the single largest source of particulate matter emissions,” said Alfredo Angulo, Communities for a Better Environment just transition campaign manager. “Investments that incentivize polluting fuels allow for polluting industries to continue poisoning our communities.”

“False climate solutions are nothing new. Carbon capture, ‘clean’ coal, cap and trade, none of these have resulted in cleaner air, cleaner water, or fewer sick children,” said Ari Eisenstadt, California Environmental Justice Alliance energy justice manager. “California is set to receive over a billion dollars in hydrogen incentives. If we don’t pass AB 2870, we could see refineries across the state using toxic methane to produce hydrogen fuel and call it ‘clean energy.’ Anyone who has been to a manure pit will tell you there’s nothing clean about it.”  

California is setting national precedent for betting on combustion fuels to solve our climate crisis. States across the country are looking to adopt their own LCFS programs and to the LCFS as a model of climate policy. The LCFS also supports massive polluters that have operations in other states, contributing to more pollution in those communities. If not corrected immediately, the LCFS will continue to perpetuate disastrous environmental justice harms on Californians living near dairies and beyond.

“CARB is entrenching some of the worst factory farm practices and locks us into a future of fossil fuels,” said Chirag Bhakta, Food & Water Watch California director. “AB 2870 is a vital step we must take to address the LCFS’s perverse ‘avoided methane crediting’ policy which, when introduced during the last rulemaking, kicked off a nationwide expansion of factory farm biogas operations — a concerning trend dubbed the ‘manure gold rush.’ The avoided methane crediting policy must be eliminated completely to protect the communities most affected by its perverse incentives, and ensure California’s legacy as a climate leader.”

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