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For Immediate Release, October 16, 2008


Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 310-1549
Alegria De La Cruz, California Rural Legal Assistance, (559) 441-8721 x 313

Lawsuit Filed to Reduce Pollution From Mega-dairy in Central Valley:
Groups Seek Reductions in Greenhouse Gases and
Other Damaging Air Pollutants

FRESNO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and California Rural Legal Assistance filed suit today challenging the failure of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to properly consider the global warming and human health impacts of the proposed 6,120 animal Van Der Kooi Dairy under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuit is one of a series of court challenges brought by the Center to reduce greenhouse gases from new development through the CEQA environmental review process. It is the second of two lawsuits filed by California Rural Legal Assistance under CEQA challenging the failure of both the Air District and the county of Fresno to protect public health from new and expanding dairies. Mega-dairies produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide), ozone precursors, particulate pollution, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia, all of which are extremely damaging to human health.

“By illegally downplaying the project’s impacts on global warming, human health, and the environment, the Air District squandered a critically important opportunity to incorporate solutions available today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from dairies,” said Matt Vespa, senior attorney with the Center. “For example, digester systems can convert the methane gases generated by cows to energy, greatly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage of the facility.”

“Every year 300 people die in Fresno County alone from pollution-related causes. The average Fresno resident will die one to two years earlier here than elsewhere, due to our high pollution levels,” said Alegria De La Cruz, directing attorney for the Fresno office of California Rural Legal Assistance. “This case is about ensuring that the well-being of Fresno County residents is protected, by holding the Air District accountable to its mandate to ensure that important sources of pollution such as mega-dairies take all possible measures to minimize their pollution.”

Continued “business-as-usual” greenhouse gas emissions will have devastating impacts to the environment, public health, and the economy. Unchecked emissions threaten up to 70 percent of plants and animals worldwide with extinction, with species from the polar bear in the Arctic to the American pika in Yosemite in grave peril. California is particularly vulnerable to impacts such as sea-level rise, more frequent and severe wildfires and droughts, and decreasing snowpack and water availability.

Leading scientists warn that the atmospheric carbon dioxide level must actually be reduced from its current level of 385 parts per million (ppm) to less than 350 parts per million to avoid runaway climate change and truly unacceptable impacts. The failure to address greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture, which account for 18 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, is incompatible with this goal. Without strong action, the current atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 385 ppm will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, triggering wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and tragic human suffering.

Increased temperatures from global warming will also increase ozone formation in areas like the Central Valley, which are already suffering so heavily from air pollution.

The individual petitioner, Eugenia Melesio, is a resident of Fresno County concerned about the new and expanding dairy development. “All I am asking for is that the responsible agencies do a good job of looking at the environmental impact or else people suffer,” said Mrs. Melesio. “I do not want my family to suffer.”

Visit the Center’s Web site for more information on its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act.

California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. is a legal services organization whose purpose is to provide free legal representation to low-income communities throughout rural California. CRLA’s mission is to ensure access to justice and human rights for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. Please visit to learn more about CRLA.

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