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Court puts brakes on Minnesota dairy expansion

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday, Oct. 14 put a halt to the proposed expansion of a Winona County dairy farm and referred it back to state regulators.

The state Pollution Control Agency had previously determined that the project did not require the completion of an environmental impact statement. But on Monday, the court ordered the agency to reconsider whether one was necessary.

In remanding the project back to the agency, the court also revoked approval of the project.

The approval of the project was appealed to the court by the nonprofit Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The organization represented itself in the appeal as well as the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project, according to a press release.

The agency did carry out an environmental review of Daley Farms’ proposed dairy expansion before approving the modifications it involved, but opted not to conduct the kind of study that would have produced an impact statement. A limited liability company, Daley owns and operates three dairies in Winona County and is managed by members of the same-named family.

Impact statements, according to the advocacy center, contain project alternatives and note the “cumulative impact” that proposals could have on nearby and future developments.

The advocacy center argued that the agency’s initial review did not account for the greenhouse gas emissions that the expansion could produce. According to court documents, the expansion would increase Daley’s dairy cow count from approximately 1,700 to approximately 4,600, and would result in the annual production of approximately 46 million gallons of manure.

Export reports that the center submitted to the court claimed that the expanded operation would become the state’s 43rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. The pollution agency, according to court documents, argued in response that it did not need to consider the emissions because “Daley Farms does not require an air emissions permit.”

Ultimately, the court agreed that the agency ought to include the expansion’s potential to release greenhouse gasses in its initial review. It stopped short, however, of ordering an impact statement to be produced.


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