In 2024, a state law will require the dairy industry to begin to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. A recent legal settlement will help Tulare County, the nation’s leading dairy producer, to meet that goal.
One of the most potent greenhouse gases is methane, which is produced by decaying manure lagoons and released by burping cattle. In the settlement, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors agreed to increase its reporting of dairy methane emissions and step up its oversight over the industry’s permitting and compliance.
“We received loud and clear from environmental groups that they weren’t happy in where we were going,” says Tulare County spokesperson Carrie Monteiro, “so we went back to the table with them in a mediation process and were able to come into agreement and come into light that we can do more.”
The settlement arose from a 2018 lawsuit filed by environmental groups who argued the county wasn’t doing enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Methane is considered to be 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the state estimates the livestock industry to be responsible for as much as 55% of the state’s methane emissions. In 2017, Tulare County produced nearly 11 billion pounds of milk, more than 5 percent of the nation’s milk supply.
“It’s really important that at the local level as well as the state level that there are steps that are being taken to reduce these really significant air and water pollution issues,” says Jonathan Evans of the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.
The agreement serves as a bridge until 2024, when Senate Bill 1383 will require dairies and other livestock producers to reduce their methane emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2030.