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California Environmental Quality Act

Fresno Bee, October 16, 2008

Air district sued over dairy approval
Suit says adverse effects weren't considered
By Pablo Lopez

A lawsuit filed Thursday against the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District contends district officials approved a proposed 6,120-animal dairy in southwest Fresno County without considering global warming or adverse effects on human health.

The Center for Biological Diversity and California Rural Legal Assistance said the proposed dairy near the community of Burrel violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not requiring equipment that converts methane gas into energy.

The lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court also said megadairies produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, particulate pollution, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia that are dangerous to human health.

"By illegally downplaying the project's impact on global warming, human health and the environment, the air district squandered a critically important opportunity to incorporate solutions ... to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutions from dairies," said Matt Vespa, a senior attorney for the San Francisco-based center.

The air board approved the proposed dairy owned by Charles Van Der Kooi on Sept. 17.

The two groups want the court to nullify an environmental impact report that led to the approval of the dairy and order a new report that addresses global warming and human health impacts.

The lawsuit also challenges the approval process, saying the Fresno County Board of Supervisors should have jurisdiction over whether the dairy gets built, not the air district.

Air district officials had no immediate comment, spokesman Anthony Presto said.

The two groups represent Eugenia Melesio, a Fresno County resident.

"All I am asking for is that the responsible agencies do a good job of looking at the environmental impact, or else people suffer," Melesio said in a statement.

The proposed dairy would adversely affect Fresno County residents, the lawsuit said, because nearly one in five residents has asthma -- at least three times the national average.

"Every year, 300 people die in Fresno County alone from pollution-related causes," said Alegria De La Cruz, a lawyer in CRLA's Fresno office. "The average Fresno resident will die one or two years earlier here than elsewhere due to our high pollution levels."

© Copyright 2008 The Fresno Bee

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton