The small, idyllic family farms that come to mind at the first mention of farming are all but gone, replaced by enormous factories that churn out animals at record speed, with little regard for their health and welfare. These factory farms produce a host of issues, including pervasive water and air pollution, particularly in vulnerable agricultural communities like those of the San Joaquin Valley in California. While the detriments of the factory farm model are numerous, contribution to climate change in particular has garnered significant attention. Animal agriculture in the U.S. produces 36% of the country’s methane, a greenhouse gas significantly more potent than carbon dioxide. Despite the myriad of problems posed by factory farms, industry has focused its attention on the climate change impacts of these enormous operations, and now purports to have the solution—anaerobic digesters. This technology captures methane from animal waste and produces biogas, an energy source that can be used much like natural gas. States like California heavily incentivize this otherwise cost prohibitive technology. This Article argues anaerobic digesters are a false solution to factory farms. It posits that by promoting them, California fails to acknowledge the greater environmental threat factory farms pose to the environment and the environmental justice concerns surrounding the expansion of animal agriculture spurred by digesters. Accordingly, this Article examines a number of possible solutions to the recent growth of anaerobic digesters in California, including potential improvements to California’s environmental justice legislation, possible redress using environmental litigation, and a possible challenge to the funding driving anaerobic digester growth in California. Ultimately, this Article concludes that California should cease supporting anaerobic digesters and should focus instead on funding holistic solutions to factory farm issues in order to safeguard California’s most vulnerable communities.
Manure, Methane, and Money: The Anaerobic Digester Disaster in California,
Animal L. Rev.
Available at: https://lawcommons.lclark.edu/alr/vol29/iss1/4