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E-M:/ RE: / Solving our organic waste problems ...

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne M. Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>

The response to my post was entitled "Solving our organic waste
problems...", but that is exactly what is wrong with the attempts at the
state and federal level to subsidize methane digesters for concentrated
animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In addition to the state level tax
subsidized loans and tax breaks being discussed in SB 953, 954, and 955
(954 is still in the Senate, but 953 and 955 are on the House Floor),
the USDA is also providing massive subsidies for some of these
operations as well. 

Methane digesters DON'T SOLVE the waste problems for CAFOs -- while
digesters might provide a potentially sound add-on to small livestock
operations, CAFOs should not be given additional taxpayer funded
subsidies for a technology that will NOT solve the problems of waste,
when other much more sound alternatives to the production of the waste
in the first place are available.  

CAFOs in Michigan are already a heavily subsidized industry (go to the
Environmental Working Group website for agricultural subsidies for
livestock operations in Michigan
http://www.ewg.org/farm/progdetail.php?fips=26000&progcode=livestock ).
One has to question why agricultural operations which are getting, in
some cases, 10s of millions of dollars in loans from lending
institutions, yet are still causing severe pollution across the country
side, would not be expected to incorporate the cost of meeting our
environmental laws into their budgets and paying for complying with our
laws themselves.  But even if there is an argument to be made for
helping support such compliance, after many years of discussion and
debate this technology has not proven itself worthy of consideration as
a way to address those problems. 

Excellent background materials on this issue, including links to
proceedings for a national conference on methane digestion from last
year, can be found at the GRACE Factory Farm website, which does a fine
job of documenting their assertions:

In particular, the environmental shortcomings of CAFOs and methane
digesters include:
	- methane digesters are supposed to address odors, but they
don't have any effect on some of the worst sources of odors which
include the barns where animals are confined and the waste lagoons where
the animal wastes are stored:
	- ammonia production increases during methane digester
operations and to be off-gassed into the air, meaning that while one
greenhouse gas is being converted to energy, another one is being
emitted in increased amounts;
	- the combination of the cost of actually doing ammonia
stripping from methane digesters coupled with the short lifespan of the
facilities (less than 10 years) makes this an uneconomical way to
generate energy;
	- methane digesters do NOT decrease the actual amount of waste
that needs to be disposed of, which means one of the worst problems in
Michigan with CAFOS, which is a lack of suitable available land for
disposal near the facilities, is not mitigated at all;
	- many of the worst contaminants, from heavy metals to chemicals
in the wastes, and even, depending on the process used, pathogens, are
NOT removed in the digester, so these still end up on the land with the
same likelihood as before that they will pollute surface and
	- and, last but not least, the amount of methane produced is
small, particularly compared to the price.  

There is a good reason that the pro-CAFO community once again has its
hands stuck out asking for another taxpayer subsidy that will take funds
away for good alternatives to CAFOs and possibly even encourage MORE
CAFOs to be built.  One concern that has been raised is that the large
scale methane digesters that have been discussed in Michigan may well
require more CAFOs to be built in proximity to support their demand for

We also have seen nothing of permitting requirements for these
facilities -- are their air quality and water quality permits being
required for methane digesters, or are the claiming exemption as
agricultural operations?  

The issue gets back again to the fundamental problem -- the state of
Michigan is like a 20 gallon bucket into which the pro-CAFO forces are
trying to shove 200 gallons of fetid, polluting animal wastes --
Michigan needs to go back to the drawing board on this whole mess
instead of continuing to head down the path of encouraging and providing
more subsidies and support to these facilities. 

Anne Woiwode  
Anne Woiwode, Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue,  Lansing, MI  48906
ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org
website:  http://michigan.sierraclub.org 

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
[mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Lowell Prag
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2004 1:21 PM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: E-M:/ Solving our organic waste problems ...

Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>

On Thu, 23 Sep 2004, Anne M. Woiwode wrote:

> Thanks for your question -- more than 50 Sierra Club members and
> supporters came to the Capitol for a full day of meetings with
> Legislators.  This wonderful, diverse group ranged in age from
> to senior citizens, came from all over the lower peninsula, and talked
> about three primary issues:
> - the critical need to address concentrated animal feeding operations
> (CAFOS), which attention to asking legislators to oppose the methane
> digester subsidy bills which were before the House that day; and

Hello Anne,

Could you please explain the logic of your above position.

My understanding is that it is not a give away of tax payer dollars but
rather, a loan program beginning with a total of $25,000,000 that is to
be made available:


>From a technical viewpoint:

the only logical solution to the enormous amounts of manure that are
produced by cafos, is the use of anaerobic composting disgesters which
extract from organic wastes, methane gas for use as fuel to produce
electricity which is sent back into utility company's power grid, for
sale back to them, while also producing compost for use on our farm
displacing the present use of petrol-chemical derived fertilizers which
not only consume huge amounts of fossil fuel to produce, but also
the long-term viability of the soil.

It should be noted that anaerobic composting disgesters can also solve
in a similar fashion, the current problems we have with disposing of
our organic wastes in landfills and incinerators but that is another

For a model of a large scale, successful implementation of such an
approach to organic wastes, I refer you to Nova Scotia in Canada.
Michigan should also implement such an approach, by educating the
general public and our political leaders as to the feasibility.

Below is an email from David Wimberly <davidwimberly@eastlink.ca>,
who pioneered much of the work in Nova Scotia and which explains
their approach.

It can also be read here:

[USCC] Biomass energy priorities ...

I also refer you to this unique index approach that they take to the
general issue of sustainability which Michigan should also develop:

GPI Atlantic - A Genuine Progress Index (GPI) to Measure Sustainability


Lowell Prag

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 21:11:08 -0700
From: Gary Liss <gary@garyliss.com>
Reply-To: US Composting Council Compost Discussion List
To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
Subject: [USCC] Biomass energy priorities ...

I am forwarding these from another list for the Compost list members'

>Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 14:45:35 -0300
>From: David Wimberly <davidwimberly@eastlink.ca>
>I have been a long time anti-incineration activist and have also
>consistently promoted more sustainable and healthy alternatives.  I
live in
>the Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada area where I was the chief citizen
>architect and advocate of our Waste/Resource Management System. Paul
>and many others have stated it is the best in the world although it is
>from perfect.  Currently we conserve about 48 to 49% of what was once
>This week an initiative will be announced designed to get us to 60%.
>citizen's strategy outlined how to reach 88%.  A very current critique
>state of the art evaluation including costs/benefits to the environment
>available at http://gpiatlantic.org/ I helped write/research the final
>section on how to go forward.  Please download it.  Other reports there
>also be widely useful.
>I have led and help lead successful battles to stop imported waste
>incinerators, a PCB incinerator, a MSW incinerator, a medical waste
>incinerator, and a sewage sludge incinerator.  Currently my main
interest is
>in helping others acquire the tools and perspectives to be successful
>compassionate social action in a wide spectrum of arenas in modern
>Here in Nova Scotia citizens are very strongly opposed to incineration.
>Only one remains and it is in Cape Breton.  I am horrified to see how
>incineration is being promoted elsewhere. And I find repugnant
>to incineration sewage sludge.
>Our local government is promoting a very unsustainable form of sewage
>land application for current materials.  They want to use a slightly
>problematical form in the future, which I and many others don't accept
>The only long term solution to the pollutants in sewage sludge is to
>put them there in the first place.  Much better source controls is
where I
>chose to put my energy in this area.  I propose source controls based
>"Zero Toxic Discharge" and the "No Net Degradation" regulatory model.
>should be informed by the Precautionary Principle.  If we endorse
>"solutions" to any material that includes landfill, incineration or any
>other form that permanently wastes or destroys them, then every living
>looses. Eventually we will have turned our world into waste.
>The core of the NS/Halifax MSW program is source-separated composting,
>produces clean organic material we have real need for with our thin
soils on
>rocky ground.  Similarly we need to promote systems that are actually
>sustainable for the organics in sludge.  Pathogens and toxins are
>problems, but lets only promote methods that truly eliminate them, not
>them into one more problem like incineration or landfilling.
>Here in Nova Scotia we have a few Solar Aquatics sewage treatment
>that turn sludge into plants and leaves the water clear and clean. Only
>slight ultraviolet treatment is done, mostly as a precaution.
>With every best wish,
Gary Liss
Fax: 916-652-0485
Compost maillist  -  Compost@compostingcouncil.org

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