Grassley worried about methane reduction plan’s impact on farms

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday with questions about how the Obama administration’s methane-reduction efforts would affect dairy farms.

Grassley’s questions came weeks after the administration released a plan to reduce methane emissions. The strategy called on the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to outline their own plans to lower methane releases, including from biogas produced by cows.

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Grassley suggested that it might lead to regulations such as a mandate for anaerobic digesters, which break down methane.

“The intent of this biogas roadmap is seemingly to incentivize voluntary action by producers,” Grassley said in a Friday statement. “But, it’s very hard to forget only a couple of years ago this administration was trying to push cap-and-trade through Congress. It’s logical to be skeptical of the administration’s intentions.”

Grassley asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy whether other countries require anaerobic digesters, how many farms would have to install the devices in order for methane emissions to fall 25 percent and what it would cost farmers. Obama’s goal is a 25 percent methane reduction by 2020.

He wrote his letter a week after a group of Senate Republicans — not including Grassley — wrote to McCarthy and the leaders of the USDA and the Department of Energy (DOE) urging them not to regulate livestock emissions under the methane strategy.

“The agriculture community is committed to environmental stewardship, which is evidenced by the 11 percent reduction in agriculture-related methane emissions since 1990,” the senators, led by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), wrote April 10. “It is our hope that the EPA, USDA and DOE will work with Congress and the agriculture industry to outline voluntary measures that can be taken to reduce emissions without imposing heavy-handed regulations on farms across America.”