Monday, April 27, 2009

Cattle-state senators seek to block regulation of methane emissions from large cattle operations

The Environmental Protection Agency said April 17 that it is closer to declaring greenhouse-pgas emissions a threat to public health. The announcement heated the debate over what types of emissions should be regulated, including large cattle-feeding operations. " EPA estimates that U.S. cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions," reports Lisa Hare of the Yankton Press & Dakotan.

If methane emissions from large cattle operations are regulated, the operators will have to participate in the cap-and-trade program to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Mike Johannas, R-Neb., are pushing legislation to stop that. South Dakota and Nebraska are big cattle producers. "According to Thune, the EPA’s new declaration could set the government down a 'slippery slope' toward a permit process for methane emissions of cattle and other livestock," writes Hare.

Johanns, who was agriculture secretary in the last administration, argues that the Clean Air Act was passed to regulate vehicles, power plants, and factories, not naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions. The National Farmers Union, which represents smaller farmers, "supports a national, mandatory carbon emission cap-and-trade system," adds Hare. (Read more)

How large would a livestock operation have to be in order to fall under the regulatory scheme? Only about 50 are being required to report to EPA, under guidelines issued last month, but that could be tightened. EPA estimated that only those with 89,000 cattle, 73,000 hogs or 5,000 dairy cows would meet the threshold for reporting.

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