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Coalition Sues EPA Over Factory Farm Pollution

PHOTO: A handful of organizations are taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court, demanding action on pollution from the country's 20,000 livestock operations. Photo credit: Green Fire Productions/Flickr.
PHOTO: A handful of organizations are taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court, demanding action on pollution from the country's 20,000 livestock operations. Photo credit: Green Fire Productions/Flickr.
January 29, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being taken to court over the pollution from so-called factory farms in a case that could impact livestock producers and rural residents across Iowa.

The petitions, filed in federal court, say the EPA has failed for years to address noxious emissions and demands action from the agency within the next 90 days.

Tarah Heinzen is an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. She explains, the focus of their petition is the setting of health-based national air standards for ammonia.

"Because livestock operations are the nation's dominant source of this pollutant, which causes numerous damaging impacts on health and the environment," says Heinzen. "The petition simply asks the EPA to write rules that will hold factory farms to the same standards as other major polluters."

Another petition requests that the EPA list factory farms as a category of sources of pollution under the Clean Air Act. Heinzen says there are roughly 20,000 livestock operations in the U.S. and they produce more than 500 million tons of manure each year.

The legal action comes from a coalition of environmental, humane and community organizations, on behalf of rural residents and family farmers whose health and quality of life has been impacted. That includes Rosie Partridge of Sac County, whose home sits within four-miles of operations with a combined 30,000 hogs.

"We are nauseated at times with the choking smell of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, as well as the odor of decaying animals," Partridge says. "It is unbearable and we have had to leave our home for several days during the worst of it, and are certain it is affecting our health."

When it comes to livestock production, Iowa is the top state in the country for both hogs and laying hens, and is in the top five for cattle.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA