MPCA Gets It Right On Not Regulating Greenhouse Gases on Dairy Farm Expansion

Center of the American Experiment has been reporting on a developing story where environmental activist groups like the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) and the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) are using the court system to attack Minnesota farmers. These groups have sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for not regulating greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm seeking to expand their operation in Southeastern Minnesota.

Thankfully, MPCA delivered a decisive win for farmers when it determined that the dairy farm would not need to complete a time consuming and expensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the greenhouse gases that would be released as a result of adding more milking cows to its operation because the enlarged dairy would have no meaningful impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Star Tribune:

“In an interview, Melissa Kuskie, the MPCA’s manager of the certification, environmental review and rules section, said that when the agency revisited the environmental review for the expanded Daley Farms, it decided the level of greenhouse gas emissions wasn’t enough to warrant an environmental impact statement.

The analysis was “challenging,” she said, because there are no state or national air quality standards or guidance for greenhouse gases the agency can use to determine significance. State rules require only the briefer environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) for projects that produce 100,000 or more tons of greenhouse gases per year.

“It’s a reasonable conclusion that if they wouldn’t trigger an EAW on their own, then they wouldn’t warrant an EIS on their own,” Kuskie said.”

According to MPCA, the expanded farm would emit 34,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, which is  about 65 percent less than the estimates provided by MCEA in their lawsuit. A recently released report from MPCA found that greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota totaled 154.2 million tons in 2016, the most recent year data were available. This means the agency believes the dairy expansion would account for 0.0002 (0.02 percent) of Minnesota emissions each year. Such a small increase in statewide emissions would have had zero measurable impact on future global temperatures.

At 34,000 tons of greenhouse gas per year, the dairy expansion would have constituted 0.004 percent of the emissions that would have been averted by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was widely considered to be the previous administration’s signature climate change regulation. Using the same logic applied by the Obama administration, we can conclude that the expansion of this dairy farm would potentially result in a temperature increase of 0.0000008 degrees Celcius by 2100, an amount so microscopic it is impossible to measure.

In other words, there is no credible way to argue that expanding this dairy would have any impact on global temperatures.

Faulty Logic from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

MCEA was not happy with the MPCA’s decision. According to a story in the Star Tribune:

“The MPCA missed an opportunity to help farmers benefit from policies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution,” said Aaron Klemz, spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

The Land Stewardship Project, a group opposed to large-scale farms, said that the MPCA “has ignored sound environmental science and policy.”

MCEA’s statement is disingenuous. It is unclear how farmers would benefit from being forced to jump through the hoops of a long and expensive environmental review process just to expand their farms. If MCEA wanted to help farmers, they wouldn’t be trying to force more onerous regulations on them by suing a state agency.

Unfortunately, anti-agriculture groups like MCEA will simply keep suing farmers and using the court system in an attempt to enact Green New Deal-styled rules and regulations on Minnesota’s food producers that would never pass the sniff test in the state legislature.

This is why it is so important that the legislature come together as quickly as possible to pass legislation that expressly prohibits the MPCA from considering the greenhouse gas impact of agricultural activities in the permitting process to keep similar lawsuits from harming Minnesota farmers.

Minnesota farmers have already been dealt a devastating blow by the government-imposed COVID-19 shutdown, which has greatly reduced demand for nearly every agricultural product and caused prices to plummet. As a result, some farmers have had to resort to culling their livestock because they can’t afford to keep feeding them at today’s prices.

If Governor Walz is serious about his “One Minnesota” policy, this would be the right time to start showing it.