Chicken Farm Air Pollution and Environmental Rights

Why should you care about chicken farm air pollution?

If you don’t live within the smell of a chicken farm, you may not have an opinion on this. You also may not realize that chicken farm air pollution has a negative impact on both environmental and public health.  

However, there is a clear reason why you should care. Maryland passed the Environmental Policy Act of 1973 which stated that everyone has the right to a healthful environment and required state agencies to develop rules and procedures to protect the environment. Most state agencies have failed to adopt such rules, and the state has enabled the poultry industry’s systematic pollution of our airshed and waterways without recourse. That is until today.  

The Bay Journal recently reported that a Maryland judge required the state to regulate chicken farm air pollution. A Chesapeake Bay Foundation funded study in 2019 “estimated that 24 million pounds of ammonia fall back onto the Eastern Shore’s land and waters after being emitted by the region’s CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). “This new ruling, said the foundation’s vice president, Alison Prost, clarified the responsibility of regulators to reduce ammonia emissions to improve water quality in Maryland rivers and streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay.” Kathy Phillips, executive director of the Assateague Coastal Trust, said “this ruling will work to protect watershed communities, including those communities facing environmental injustices, who will see improved water quality and the co-benefit of reduced air pollution.”  You can read the full article here.

Why do we need an environmental rights amendment?

The Assateague Coastal Trust and Chesapeake Legal Alliance were able to make a winning case that MDE was not doing enough under the Clean Water Act. We are grateful that there are organizations who are committed to holding our state agencies accountable for their job to protect the environment. 

Unfortunately this is just one legal case. How many other examples are there of pollution emitting facilities where there is no oversight or legal action to force regulation happen? How do we fill in the legal gaps when laws to address specific environmental and human health issues have not yet been written? 

That is why we need to  pass an environmental rights amendment that requires the state to protect us by protecting our natural resources, including the air we breathe and the water we drink and the ecosystems we rely on for our very existence.  A constitutional amendment would require the state to make protecting our natural resources a priority. This means they would be required to understand the impact on the health of the environment of every single permitting decision. 

If we pass a constitutional amendment, we can change how the Maryland system operates and redress and prevent many of the  environmental health problems that we are struggling to address today. 

If working on systemic change is important to you, join us in our advocacy for passing an environmental rights amendment in Maryland. Sign up here for campaign updates and follow the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights (MDEHR) on Twitter and Instagram. We need your voice to make Maryland a healthier place to live for current and future generations.