What is in this article?:
- Unsustainable: The problem with California‚Äôs green regulations
- Growing chorus of critics
- Conflicts, errors and controversy
- Diesel emissions
- Questioning the air board
- Strict emissions guidelines
- Recycling contamination?
- Riparian buffers
- Infeasible standards
- A heavy cost to agriculture
- The roots of the problem
- Insufficient evaluation of regulations
- Moving forward
- Sensible proposals?
- In December 2010, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture released a report, “California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability,” detailing ways the state could improve agricultural policies. Not surprising, it advocated more “green” practices be adopted. But one part of the report wasn’t so predictable - a section criticizing California regulations, including environmental rules, as often “duplicative,” “conflicting,” “uncoordinated,” and “needlessly burdensome.”
Ron Koetsier, a dairyman in Tulare County, Calif., had to shut down his methane digester in 2008 because the local air district passed a rule requiring expensive modifications to the machine’s generators, which produce electricity by burning methane gas produced by cow manure.
Insufficient evaluation of regulations
Noel at Cal Poly said the situation with the recycling program in Stanislaus, where an effort to protect regional water quality threatened county recycling goals, local agribusiness, and to a limited extent, even air quality, showed that there is sometimes insufficient evaluation of regulations’ unintended consequences.
“It demonstrates, when you put forth these regulations, I’m not sure there’s a tremendous amount of investigation into the additional costs or benefits measured,” he said.
Noel said there is also a need for environmental regulations to be considered in conjunction with other priorities, including the need for a healthy agricultural economy. But he said some parties pursue environmental objectives to the exclusion of all others.
“There’s a lot of pride on the part of various political groups and special interests that ‘California leads the way, and others follow,’” Noel said. But “Sustainability is a three-legged stool: environmental, social and economic sustainability.”
The laws behind regulations also create problems. Mitloehner at UC Davis said he believed the flaws with the San Joaquin air district’s initial approach to regulating dairies resulted from the 2003 law, SB 700, that required regulation of agricultural sources of air pollution in California. He said it hadn’t allowed the air board time to adequately study the issue.
“Senate Bill 700, authored by (former state senator Dean) Florez, mandated (air boards) to regulate agriculture like any other industry, and the problem is they’ve previously never regulated agriculture,” Mitloehner said. “They don’t have that background in what kinds of emissions are coming from what sources and how they can be mitigated.”
Paggi at CSU Fresno said he believed that California’s legislators and regulators are too quick to push the envelope before the science and impact of environmental policies are understood. Paggi cited AB 32 as an example – the law is supposed to exempt farmers, but the trickle-down costs will cut farmers’ profits significantly in the long run, he said.
“People I think sometimes make decisions on less than full information,” Paggi said.