A coalition of environmental groups is asking the
federal government to force Oregon to apply the
state's air quality laws to large farms.
They said Oregon violates the federal Clean Air
Act because state air laws exempt farms, putting the
state in the position of ignoring potential sources
The petition filed with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency cites as an example a huge dairy
complex near Boardman suspected of contributing to
the pollution and acid rain in the Columbia River
The complex, Threemile Canyon Farms, has filed
reports showing it releases large quantities of
ammonia, a byproduct of decomposing manure. The
operation includes dairies and feedlots and houses
some 52,300 cattle.
Dairy officials have said they go to great
lengths to minimize air pollution and stay ahead of
But the Oregon Department of Environmental
Quality does not regulate their emissions because
farms in Oregon of any size are exempt.
California had a similar exemption until the
federal government stepped in. Large dairies and
feedlots in California were found to be contributing
to smog in the state's Central Valley.
High levels of ammonia have been found in rain
and fog at the east end of the gorge. Threemile
Canyon has been identified as a possible source.
The state's air laws were drafted before the
state was home to major farming operations, said
Andrew Ginsburg, administrator of the DEQ's air
He said officials are still unsure whether such
farms release enough air pollution to warrant
regulation, he said.
The EPA is studying that question.
The federal Clean Air Act requires that large
sources of pollution obtain permits. Large-scale
livestock farms have come under increasing scrutiny
by environmental groups and government agencies as
sources of pollution.
Eliminating Oregon farms from exemption would
require an act by the Legislature.
The groups petitioning for the change were the
Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Friends of
the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Oregon
Chapter of the Sierra Club, United Farm Workers of
America, Oregon Physicians for Social
Responsibility, the Oregon Center for Environmental
Health and the Learning Disabilities Association of
Information from: The Oregonian,