In two separate letters, Senators caution that new incentives for methane biodigesters on industrial livestock operations will worsen environmental justice impacts from factory farms

Washington (August 24, 2022) — Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against providing new electrification pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for methane biogas from factory farms, and separately expressed concern about plans at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to rely heavily on methane digesters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.

The Senators are specifically concerned that efforts at both agencies will increase the number of methane digesters used in industrial livestock operations, which will have unintended negative consequences for agriculture industry consolidation and for environmental justice.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Regan, the Senators raise concerns about a forthcoming decision at the EPA regarding implementation of certain electrification pathways under the RFS. “One of the potential RFS electrification pathways could allow methane biogas from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to serve as a qualified feedstock and generate electric renewable identification numbers (e-RINs) under the RFS’ cellulosic mandate,” the Senators wrote. “While we appreciate this administration’s support for electric vehicles (EVs) and transportation electrification, we also urge EPA to ensure that this federal support does not come at the expense of environmental justice communities that are already overburdened with pollution.”

In a separate letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack, the Senators requested additional information about the agency’s Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan for livestock emissions, which relies heavily on expanding the use of methane digesters on factory farms. “To our knowledge, USDA has not yet produced evidence that subsidizing manure digesters will reduce absolute emissions from the agriculture sector, which is the top source of U.S. methane emissions,” the Senators wrote. “Additionally, we remain concerned that USDA has not fully explored or produced evidence of the impacts of manure methane digesters on other key issues. These issues include co-pollutants of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), food system concentration, public health, and heightened community risks for rural, low-income, agricultural-dependent, and Black and Brown communities.”

The letter to EPA can be viewed here and the USDA letter can be viewed here.