Report: Greenhouse gases down 16% from 2013 levels

Fifty-five digesters over 52 dairies, other measures help reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions in Tulare County

TULARE COUNTY – Last week, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors heard a report on progress in cutting dairy cow and cattle emissions that cause particulate pollution and generate greenhouse gases (GHG).

Tulare County is monitoring their dairies in an annual report being done under a settlement with environmental groups in 2019.

Through 2019, the report says emissions are down 16% from 2013 as a result of a smaller animal herd, management efforts and installation of technology that is capturing manure-based gases. Carbon-dioxide-based emissions were 6.3 metric tons which was 16% less than tonnage measured in 2013. It is also 16% of the tonnage reduction target for 2023 under the state Climate Action Plan.

Not yet measured are the expected benefits from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) investment that matches dairies funding to install digesters at an impressive number of 55 over 52 Tulare County dairies as of April 13. The CDFA has contributed more than $80 million out of a total cost of $236 million for these projects. As of now, just 15 digesters are operational and 36 are under construction.

The report notes that once the 55 digesters are all operating for ten years, the GHG reductions will total 9.5 million metric tons- about 700,000 metric tons reduction per year or 82% of the 2023 goal.

55 dairy digesters and 64 solar projects

Besides this investment in dairy digesters, dairies are cutting greenhouse gases building 58 solar projects at local facilities and other measures including thermal hot water systems and alternative manure management programs. By 2020, solar projects are said to increase to 64 helping to reduce greenhouse gases.

The county’s dairies are producing more milk with fewer animals. In 2013 the number of animal units was 741 thousand compared to 707 thousand in 2019.

Capturing methane at digesters allows it to be piped to a central station and cleaned up to become renewable natural gas for transportation.

California is the nation’s biggest dairy-producing state with Tulare and Kings counties among the top producing counties. The industry is trying to reduce its overall greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030 and 80% by 2050. A 2016 law set in motion the current progress with the state offering help to make it happen.

Critics of the programs say the state is propping up large dairies instead of promoting smaller, more sustainable operations. Others suggest giving up milk and meat to substantially reduce the environmental impacts livestock wreaks in the food sector.

Local feed company delivers with renewable fuel

It’s full circle. Biogas from local dairy farms is being pumped into the fuel tanks of feed trucks from Western Milling, based in both Hanford and Goshen, that return to the dairy to bring feed.

Late last year, Western Milling opened their Clean Natural Gas station serving customers as well as fueling 33 company-owned trucks. The station is located right off Highway 99 at the Betty Drive interchange.

The company says, “Our new trucks are fueled with renewable natural gas that can virtually eliminate smog-forming pollutants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.”

The company plans to have a fleet of 40 CNG truck by midway through this year as more dairy digesters open.

Western Milling founder Kevin Kruse said says they will, “continue to source renewable natural gas from their local dairy partners.”

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