VISALIA — A coalition of three environmental groups sued Tulare County last week for approving new regulations for dairy farms and feedlots that they claim would worsen air quality and undercut California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 11 by the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and the Association of Irritated Residents, calls into question the environmental impact report for an Animal Confinement Facilities Plan (ACFP) and the related General Plan Amendment, zoning change and Dairy Feedlot and Dairy Climate Action Plan (CAP) approved by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 12, 2017.
The lawsuit contends that the EIR failed to adequately establish a baseline for the project or enforceable mitigation measures in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. “[County of Tulare has] prejudicially abused their discretion because [they] have failed to proceed according to the law, and their decision is not supported by substantial evidence,” the groups stated in their lawsuit.
It goes on to state that the ACFP was intended to make approval of new or expanded dairies quicker and easier and to make tracking of existing dairies easier. The lawsuit questions the use of 2013 as a “baseline year” and argues that the plan encourages adding another 200,000 cows by 2023 despite state mandates to reduce green house gas emissions by 2020. The group questions the ACFP’s lack of mitigation measures to reduce green house gas emissions from the added cows as the policy only suggests strategies such as feed additives and digesters, which capture methane gases released by cows and convert them to natural gas fuel. It also said the EIR failed to consider pasture-based dairies instead of the traditional confinement based dairies.