Cow Turd Energy Project Draws Ire

Representatives from several Oregon environmental groups are urging state regulators to deny a pollution permit for a project that aims to convert cow manure into natural gas. 


Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, the state’s largest dairy farm, is currently converting the methane from bovine excrement into bio-gas using a digester, using the gas to power dairy operations. They have applied for a permit to instead convert the waste into renewable natural gas, and feed it into existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure. A spokesperson from the dairy claimed that the move would reduce the carbon emissions from the dairy by 20,000 tons. Threemile Dairy has stated that it will eventually expand due to the revenue garnered from the gas. 


The opposed environmental groups (and animal rights groups), including Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Food & Water Watch, and several others, cited the amount of unregulated greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants coming from the dairy. Agricultural byproducts account for 12.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 


Even if Threemile is granted a permit, the groups say that the pollutants emitted by the mega-dairy, which include particulate matter, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, should be addressed. Oregon has yet to require air pollution permits from dairies, but these environmental groups would like the state to reconsider. 


“The vast majority of the emissions from this operation are not captured or addressed in any way by this digester, and they’re not regulated and will not be regulated by the permit as proposed,” said Tarah Heinzen from Food & Water Watch. 


By Jay Sharpe