Another environmental pipe dream

of Cow Palace Dairy At a cost of $500,000, the Cow Palace Dairy near Yakima, Wash., is rebuilding a storage lagoon to prevent nitrates from seeping into the groundwater. It will have two layers of synthetic liner, plus a middle layer that will detect any leaks. The dairy is also rebuilding eight other lagoons in the next few years at a total cost of $4.5 million.

We’ve heard the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called a lot of things, but lax isn’t one of them.

If anything, the EPA has gone overboard time and again as it has tried to put the screws to farmers, ranchers and foresters across the West. Witness the What’s Upstream boondoggle in which the EPA funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to an effort aimed at getting a new law passed in the Washington Legislature. The campaign offered untruths — that all farmers are polluters, among them — and photos from outside Washington to “bolster” its case.

Comes now Northwest Environmental Advocates, which says the EPA and another agency have been slacking and need to whip the Washington Department of Ecology into action. The environmental group has sued EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asking a judge to withhold federal funds from Ecology because it hasn’t imposed best management practices on Washington farmers, ranchers and foresters.

The environmentalists’ demands came in the form of a lawsuit in which they claim that “nonpoint source pollution is a serious and widespread problem.” Then the lawsuit’s argument stumbles over its own facts. It admits that only 2.8 percent of the state’s rivers and streams have even been checked for pollution — and that was in 2008.

That’s not much of an argument. We consistently see environment groups using outdated and incomplete information to argue how farmers and others are polluting. It seems to us that if they were interested in stopping pollution, they should look for it first.

We can’t speak for all farmers, but we know that a farmer who is found to be polluting will do his, or her, level best to rectify it. Just one example is the Sunnyside, Wash., dairy that will spend upwards of $4.5 million to double-line its lagoons as part of a legal settlement. Other dairies in the area will do the same thing.

Our suspicion is that Northwest Environmental Advocates dreams of someday telling farmers and ranchers — and everyone else — how to do their business. In its lawsuit, the group wants the EPA and NOAA to force Ecology to write best management practices for farmers and ranchers.

In our opinion, the environmentalists are really following their pipe dream and aiming for two “best management practices:”

1. Stop farming.

2. Stop ranching.

They may not like the result of those so much:

3. Stop eating.

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