House GOP Wants To Keep EPA From Regulating Cow Farts

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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House Republicans are determined to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating methane emissions from livestock production as part of President Barack Obama’s global warming agenda.

In other words, lawmakers don’t want EPA to regulate cow farts. Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Dlouhy tweeted language Republican lawmakers put into upcoming budget legislation.

Obama has made it a priority to push regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases before he leaves office, and that includes rules to clamp down on methane from livestock and oil and gas drilling.

EPA has already passed methane rules for oil and gas drilling, but so far, Congress has explicitly exempted livestock production from being put under federal environmental regulators’ control. In 2015, Obama signed into law a budget bill that renewed the provision to keep EPA from regulating cow flatulence.

Republicans became aware of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate methane from livestock in 2014 when the White House released its “Climate Action Plan.” The plan called for the dairy industry to reduce emissions 25 percent by 2020.

“Of all domestic animal types, beef and dairy cattle were by far the largest emitters of [methane],” according to an EPA analysis charting greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Cows produce methane through digestion, which ferments the food of animals.

“During digestion, microbes resident in an animal’s digestive system ferment food consumed by the animal,” the EPA notes. “This microbial fermentation process, referred to as enteric fermentation, produces [methane] as a byproduct, which can be exhaled or eructated by the animal.”

Republican lawmakers were quick to write to the Obama administration to ask they not tax cow farts.

Republicans worried Obama’s methane reduction plan could lead to “heavy-handed” regulations that would “have detrimental implications on livestock operations across the country.”

“In 2008, as part of its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, the EPA deliberated regulating agriculture-related emissions, which would have required farmers to purchase expensive permits,” Republicans wrote to the heads of the USDA, DOE and EPA.

“It was estimated that these top-down regulations would have cost medium-sized dairy farms with 75 to 125 cows between $13,000 and $22,000 a year, and medium-sized cattle farms with 200 to 300 cows between $17,000 and $27,000,” Republicans added. “We reject the notion that the EPA should, absent express authorization from Congress, seek to regulate the agriculture sector in this manner.”

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