California dairy families committed to continuing strong air quality practices despite district suspension of rules

California’s dairy families are committed to “continue our role in enhancing air quality in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Western United  Dairymen President Ray Souza, following a court order that will force the San Joaquin Valley Air District to suspend critical dairy air quality rules.  “This is not a responsibility that dairy families will shy away from. We are proud of the role that we play, along with our fellow Californians, in making our state a better place to live.”

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District announced this week that it will suspend in May Rule 4570 that regulates emissions from dairies and other confined animal facilities after a court ruled that the district did not sufficiently address the public health impact of the rule. The district’s governing board will hear at its regular May meeting a staff recommendation to set aside the rule’s enforcement until the health study has been completed. The Fifth Appellate District Court ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in July 2006 by the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) challenging the rule on a number of substantive issues and one procedural matter regarding the adequacy of the staff report on the public health impact. The court found against AIR on all of the substantive issues raised in the suit. WUD had intervened in the case on behalf of California dairy families.

Rule 4570 (Confined Animal Facilities) covers about two-thirds of the confined animals in the air basin. Adopted in June 2006, it requires affected facilities to use waste and feed management practices to reduce the release of contaminants – – VOCs, ammonia and methane. It also calls for compliance testing, sets up a compliance schedule, and establishes recordkeeping requirements for all facilities.

In a press release issued by the air district, Seyed Sadredin, the district’s executive director and air pollution control officer, said, “We are disappointed that Bay Area attorneys representing AIR rejected our proposal to leave the rule in place and continue the progress that we have made in significantly reducing dairy emissions. Setting the rule aside at the peak of the Valley’s ozone season is not in the best interest of the Valley residents.”  

WUD’s field staff and environmental staff will “continue to work with our members to help with their continued compliance with these regulations,” said CEO Michael Marsh. “Dairy producers have made great strides, at a considerable financial cost, in implementing these regulations. They will continue to rely on science-based approaches to these complex and critical air quality issues. Our members are not about to walk away from the responsible, thoughtful approach they have taken to solving our valley’s air quality problems.” 

The district has prepared a draft health assessment that is available for public review and comment. District staff will recommend at the May board meeting that the rule’s enforcement be suspended until the health study is completed. The board will then consider the health study at its June meeting and decide whether to re-adopt the rule in its original form or to direct staff to being the public process for amending the rule.   

WUD is a voluntary membership organization representing more than 60% of the milk produced in California. Membership benefits include resources in labor law, environmental regulations and pricing issues. Members decide the direction of state and federal legislative efforts affecting the dairy industry.