Friends of Toppenish Creek


Taxpayer Subsidies for Anaerobic Manure Digesters  

The WA State Dept. of Commerce (Commerce) is planning distribution of $1.8 million to promote construction of Anaerobic Digesters (ADs) that convert manure methane to renewable natural gas (RNG). This expenditure was authorized under the CEF5 Rural Clean Energy Program and appears in sub section (b) 14 of 1064 of the Chapter 332, Laws of 2021 (the 2021-23 biennial Capital Budget).  

Friends of Toppenish Creek (FOTC) believes that the WA Legislature has prematurely accepted narrow, selectively chosen arguments supporting ADs. Government has failed to look at the many adverse impacts from these facilities. FOTC respectfully asks Commerce to delay funding of ADs until all the facts are on the table.

To read more click HERE

To read a construction permit application for a Yakima RNG operation click HERE

To read an application for a Yakima RNG Conditional Use Permit click HERE

For documentation of overapplication of manure by DeRuyter & Son Dairy click HERE



Lower Yakima Valley Dairies produce so much Methane that they can sell it as natural gas


Impact of Digesters that Produce Natural Gas from Cow Manure


Investment groups see an opportunity to capitalize on Washington’s recently adopted Climate Commitment Act (CCA) Cap and Invest Program by building Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facilities in the Lower Yakima Valley (LYV) that would refine methane from cow manure into natural gas that could be pumped into the nearby Northwest Pipeline.


Friends of Toppenish Creek (FOTC) has studied reporting protocols to learn how much methane is emitted in the LYV from concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) dairies, how much can be captured, and how much will still be emitted into the atmosphere if RNG projects are approved. According to FOTC calculations methane emissions from animal agriculture in the LYV are over 29,000 metric tons per year or about 0.737 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 equivalents per year. Manure digestion also converts nitrogen in the manure to ammonia, an additional, undesirable byproduct.


Methane is created when manure is stored under anaerobic conditions in large manure lagoons. An alternative solution to the methane problem is not to create it in the first place by moving dairies toward dry manure management systems that do not involve lagoon storage. 


Recent legislation requires WA agencies to engage overburdened communities such as the LYV when the agencies address sources of pollution. This is a challenge because people in overburdened communities such as the LYV often have limited education and limited English proficiency. The WA State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) also requires community participation in regulatory decision making. FOTC submits that early discussion of the potential impacts at the local level, along with careful implementation of the SEPA are the best ways to ensure thoughtful permitting and policy making with respect to RNG.


To learn more read this statement from Friends of Toppenish Creek.






See Page 11, U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Plan at






Air Regulations in Yakima County & the Open Public Meetings Act

     In the fall of 2021, the Executive Director for the YRCAA resigned due to complaints of abuse by the YRCAA staff. FOTC asked the YRCAA board to add a citizen from the LYV to the selection committee for a new director. The board declined, saying they would instead hold a public meeting in the LYV to present candidates so the people could meet them and provide input. On July 14, 2022, the YRCAA held a such meeting in the LYV with 24 hours’ notice and no notification to the media. FOTC has complained referencing the Open Public Meetings Act. FOTC continues to push the issue of compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act and the mandates in the HEAL Act and the Climate Commitment Act to engage overburdened communities.

Read FOTC's letter of concern HERE

Read the YRCAA response in their September 2022 Board Packet HERE


Yakima County - Worst Air in Washington State




Figure 8.28. Winter season NH3 emissions contributions by source for Yakima County, from the 2011 Washington Comprehensive Emissions Inventory. page 99 of the Yakima Air Winter Nitrates Study.






Stand Up For Air
On April 23, 2021 the Friends of Toppenish Creek submitted comments to the WA State Dept. of Ecology regarding revisions to Washington's State Implementation for Air Quality in Yakima County. FOTC stated:


     Yakima County is home to 1/3 of all Washington dairy cows, about 100,000 milkers, that are concentrated in an approximately 271 square mile area in the Lower Yakima Valley (LYV). According to the WA State Department of Ecology (Ecology)1, livestock in Yakima County emitted 8,053.58 tons of ammonia into the ambient air in 2011. Ammonia is a toxic air pollutant under Washington law, WAC 173-460-150. Dairy animals also emit significant amounts of methane, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which, among other adverse effects, contribute to odor.2


     For over twenty years citizens in the Lower Yakima Valley (LYV) have complained to the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) about air pollution from concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) dairies in the area. For ten years the agency simply stonewalled.3

     In 2010 the YRCAA initiated work on an Air Quality Management Policy (AQMP) for dairies. The YRCAA approved the policy in 2013 and rescinded the policy in 2018 due to concerns about use of the AQMP data to support litigation. There is no dairy policy in Yakima.3

     Over the years the YRCAA has rejected three requests by citizens to ban spreading/spraying of manure during air inversions and burn bans.3 In 2016 the YRCAA Board of Directors rejected a modest proposal to study ammonia in the ambient air.3 YRCAA ignored research by the Friends of Toppenish Creek (FOTC) that documented high levels of ammonia at a home near LYV dairies.3 The YRCAA has ignored research by John Hopkins University and the University of Washington that documents adverse health effects from dairy emissions in Yakima County.3

     The YRCAA has rejected efforts to incorporate environmental justice into agency planning.3 In 2017, at the request of the Yakima Dairy Federation YRCAA made changes to policy for public testimony before the board and essentially eliminated opportunities to educate the board about air emissions.3

To read the full document click Here.



Air Quality in Yakima County 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency may classify an area into "non-attainment" if fine paritculate air pollution exceeds a certain level twice in a year. In January 2022 Yakima County may have reached that threshold. See the graphs below from the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency's February Board Packet.


Click HERE to see Yakima & Sunnyside air quality in January 2022

Design Values & Non-Attainment

The Environmental Protection Agency gathers and analyzes air quality measurements to determine the air quality in a given area. The results are called "Design Values" which are used to determine "Non-Attainment".  FOTC has studied this data for Yakima County and shares it HERE


FOTC Comments for the February 2022 YRCAA Board Meeting

Dear Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency Board of Directors

We wish to comment on item 8.1, the search for a new APCO. Concerns include:

  1. The YRCAA website states there are no job openings at this time.
  2. The YRCAA has been operating with two people doing double duty for about five months. This is counterproductive to the YRCAA mission. If there is no employee with the time or resources to do a job, that means the job is not being done.
  3. FOTC has asked Yakima County for a job description for the APCO position. Yakima County referred us to YRCAA and YRCAA did not respond. We are now reduced to submitting a public records request for that information.
  4. FOTC made a formal request to include citizens from the Lower Yakima Valley in the APCO search team. The YRCAA board has not responded to this request.
  5. The dairy industry is well represented in the search for an APCO by Dr. Jones. Public health is not.
  6. FOTC has submitted peer reviewed research that documents the connection between poor air quality and heart disease, between poor air quality and COVID 19. The board has not discussed this research as it applies to Yakima County.
  7. According to Ecology’s air quality website there were only six days in January in which the air quality in the City of Yakima was “healthy” for an entire day. There were no days in which the air quality in the City of Sunnyside was “healthy” for an entire day.
  8. According to the January Board Packet there were likely two days in January in which Yakima County air quality exceeded 15 mcg/cubic meter. It is our understanding that this could place the county in non-attainment.
  9. Ecology hosted community meetings via ZOOM to discuss regional air quality. YRCAA did not participate and did not advertise the meetings.
  10. YRCAA only measures PM 2.5. There is no assessment of the impact from ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, VOCs, or ozone, and these contaminants are precursors for PM 2.5.
  11. YRCAA has not discussed follow up on the YAWN study since it was published in 2015.
  12. YRCAA may be in danger of violating parts of the Open Public Meetings Act, namely RCW 42.30.010 and RCW 42.30.060 because the job description for the position of APCO is not readily available to the public and has not been discussed in an open public meeting and it has been five months since the previous APCO resigned.
  13. YRCAA may be in danger of violating the WA Clean Air Act. The agency does not comply with RCW 70A.15.1001, RCW 70A.15.3050, and WAC 173-400-100 with respect to emissions from dairy CAFOs.


Yakima County Greenhouse Gases from Livestock

Yakima County is home to over a quarter million head of cattle. According to EPA formulas these animals produce over 104,000 metric tons of methane every year, or over 2.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents from methane. 

Based on 100,000 milk cows in the 273 Square Mile LYV GWMA Target Area (Yakima County), and 45,000 milk cows in the 144 Square Mile part of Whatcom County with dairies.

Methane Emissions calculated from Attachment - Ecology Copy of Dec Ag Module

Nitrous Oxide Emissions calculated from Attachment - Ecology Copy of Dec Ag Module

Emissions of Nitrogenous Compounds from WSDA in LYV GWMA Vol. I Narrative, page 25. Available at July2019

Emissions of Ammonia, VOCs and Hydrogen Sulfide from National Air Emissions Monitoring Study: Data from Two Dairy Freestall Barns in Washington WA5B, Final Report. Available at ASAE_Journal | US EPA ARCHIVE DOCUMENT One

U.S. ton = 0.9 metric tons

To Calculate Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalents (MTCO2E), multiply metric tons of methane by 25

To Calculate Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalents (MTCO2E), multiply metric tons of nitrous oxide by 298


 To see excerpts from the EPA formulas for WA State click HERE. To download the complete formulas click HERE

Dissolve the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency

On May 11 & May 12 of 2021 the Friends of Toppenish Creek presented Yakima County Commissioners Ron Anderson, LaDon Linde & Amanda McKinney with reasons why the commission should dissolve the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency.

The YRCAA should be dissolved because:

To read the FOTC documentation click Here

Te view FOTC's Power Point presentation click Here






June 16, 2016


Contact: Jean Mendoza: 509-874-2798,


Investigation of the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency


     Friends of Toppenish Creek is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of rural communities and improving oversight of industrial agriculture. FOTC operates under the simple principle that all people deserve clean air, clean water and protection from abuse that results when profit is favored over people. FOTC works through public education, citizen investigations, research, legislation, special events, and direct action.


     For many years FOTC has attempted to work with the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) to improve air quality in Yakima County, especially in areas near very large dairies.  But air quality is worsening.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the amount of ammonia emitted to the air in Yakima County in 2008 was 6,078 tons. In 2011 ammonia emissions were 8,054 tons. On behalf of the children and vulnerable people who live in Yakima County FOTC now seeks assistance at the state and federal levels.


     On Friday, June 10, 2016 FOTC sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Division of Civil Rights asking that agency to withhold further funding to YRCAA due to longstanding discrimination against people who live in the Lower Yakima Valley.


     On the same day FOTC sent a letter to the WA State Dept. of Ecology asking that agency to investigate and de-regulate YRCAA based on a failure to act in good faith and proof that YRCAA does not fulfill its mission, is ineffective.


     These are some of the motivations for these letters:


  1. If dairies were factories they would be required to report the massive amounts of ammonia and volatile organic compounds emitted to the ambient air. Some of these chemicals cause cancer. Others cause birth defects. All affect lung health.
  2. Yakima County has the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma, highest rates of hospitalization for myocardial infarction and the highest percentages of preterm births for all large counties in Washington State.  All these conditions have been associated with high levels of fine particulate matter in the ambient air. Yakima County is close to non-compliance with federal standards for fine particulate matter. Ammonia is a major precursor for fine particulate matter.
  3. The YRCAA created an Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy in 2013 with the stated purpose “To clarify what constitutes ‘reasonable precautions to prevent’ emissions as required by WAC 173-400-040(3)”. FOTC believes that YRCAA does not have the authority or the technical expertise required to clarify state law.
  4. The Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy was created behind closed doors without public input. The policy ignored the recommendations provided by citizens who commented after the policy was completed.
  5. There is absolutely no air testing involved in the Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy and consequently no possibility of proving that air quality is changing. In order to invoke BMPs as solutions there must be objective measurements.
  6. The YRCAA does not investigate citizen complaints of air pollution in a timely manner and does not follow its own policies for investigation. It is ludicrous to test the air 48 hours after an event and state that there was no problem.
  7. The YRCAA does not provide written material in Spanish in spite of the fact that a significant portion of the population in the Lower Yakima Valley does not understand English or does not understand English well.  
  8. The YRCAA taxes the cities of Wapato, Toppenish and Harrah, as well as Yakima County for the 31,000 people who live on the Yakama Reservation. But the YRCAA provides no services to these people.
  9. In January of 2016 two local newspapers published an article entitled Study Finds Low Ammonia Emissions at Area Dairies. The publisher told FOTC that the YRCAA approved the article. It stated, “The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency continues to work on improving air quality with local residents and businesses, including farms. Although research reveals small amounts of ammonia emissions from farms, experts say these emissions are insignificant and do not pose an overall threat to human health.” This statement is untrue, and harmful to the people who rely on a taxpayer funded agency for reliable health information.


     For these reasons and more FOTC believes that the YRCAA should be defunded and de-regulated. The Washington State Department of Ecology must investigate the agency and take over management of air quality in Yakima County. The EPA must intervene as a matter of environmental justice.


Friends of Toppenish Creek




16 de junio 2016


Contacto: Jean Mendoza: 509-874-2798,


La investigación de la Agencia Regional de Aire Limpio de Yakima


Amigos de Toppenish Creek (conocido como FOTC las siglas en ingles), es una organización de no lucrativo 501(c)(3) dedicada a la protección de los derechos de las comunidades rurales y para mejorar la supervisión de la agricultura industrial. FOTC funciona bajo el principio simple de que todas las personas merecen aire limpio, agua limpia y protección contra el abuso que se produce cuando el dinero se favorece sobre la gente. FOTC trabaja usando la educación pública, las investigaciones manejadas por los ciudadanos, análisis, la legislación, eventos especiales, y acción directa.


Por muchos años FOTC ha tratado de trabajar con la Agencia Regional de Aire Limpio (YRCAA, las siglas en ingles) para mejorar la calidad del aire en el Condado de Yakima, especialmente en las zonas cercanas a industrias lácteas grandes. Sin embargo, la calidad del aire está empeorando. Según la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, las siglas en inglés) en 2008 la cantidad de amoníaco emitido al aire en el Condado de Yakima fue de 6.078 toneladas. En el año 2011 las emisiones de amoníaco fueron 8.054 toneladas. De parte de los niños y las personas vulnerables que viven en el Condado de Yakima FOTC ahora busca ayuda en los niveles estatal y federal.


El viernes 10 de junio 2016 FOTC envió una carta a la División de EE.UU. Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Derechos Civiles pidiendo que la agencia retenga fondos para YRCAA debido a la discriminación que ha existido por mucho tiempo contra las personas que viven en el Valle Bajo de Yakima.


El mismo día FOTC envió una carta al Departamento de Ecología del Estado de Washington pidiendo que la Agencia desregular  e investigue  YRCAA basado en la falta de actuar de buena fe y prueba de que YRCAA no ha cumplido con su misión y porque no es efectivo.


Estas son algunas de las motivaciones de estas letras:


1. Si las industrias lácteas eran fábricas estarían obligados a informar las cantidades grandes de amoníaco y compuestos orgánicos volátiles emitidos al aire ambiente. Algunos de estos químicos causan cáncer. Otros causan defectos de nacimiento. Todo estos afectan los  pulmones.


2. El Condado de Yakima tiene las índices más altas de hospitalización por asma, índices más altos de hospitalización por infarto de miocardio y los más altos porcentajes de nacimientos prematuros comparado a los otros condados más grandes en el estado de Washington. Todas estas condiciones se han asociado con altos niveles de partículas finas en el aire ambiente. El Condado de Yakima está a punto de superar los estándares federales para las partículas finas en el aire. El amoníaco es una pieza fundamental para la materia participada fina.


3. En 2013, el YRCAA creo una policía “Las Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras” con el propósito de "aclarar lo que constituye ' precauciones razonables para evitar' emisiones requerido por WAC 173-400-040 (3)". FOTC cree que YRCAA no tiene la autoridad o los conocimientos técnicos necesarios para aclarar la ley del estado.


4. Las Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras fueron creado a puerta cerrada y sin tomar en cuento la opinión del público. Las pólizas ignoran las recomendaciones proporcionadas por los ciudadanos que hicieron comentarios después de que se completó la póliza.


5. No hay absolutamente ninguna prueba científica de aire en la Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras por lo tanto no hay posibilidad de probar que la calidad del aire está cambiando. Para acogerse a las BMP como soluciones debe haber mediciones.


6. El YRCAA no investiga quejas de los ciudadanos sobre contaminación del aire en el momento oportuno y no sigue sus propias pólizas para la investigación. Es absurdo tomar pruebas del aire 48 horas después de un evento y decir que no había ningún problema.


7. El YRCAA no proporciona material escrito en español a pesar que una parte significativa de la población en el Valle Bajo de Yakima no entiende Inglés o no entiende bien el idioma Inglés.


8. El YRCAA les cobra impuestos a las cuidades de Wapato, Toppenish y Harrah, también al Condado de Yakima por las 31,000 personas que viven en la reservación Yakama. Pero el YRCAA no provee servicios a estas personas.


9. En enero de 2016 dos periódicos locales publicaron un artículo titulado Estudio Encuentra Bajas Emisiones de Amoníaco en la Area de Lácteos. El editor le dijo a FOTC que YRCAA había aprobado el artículo. El articulo decía: "La Agencia de Aire Limpio Regional de Yakima continúa trabajando para mejorar la calidad del aire con los residentes y negocios locales, incluyendo las granjas. Aunque la investigación revela pequeñas cantidades de emisiones de amoniaco de las granjas, los expertos dicen que estas emisiones son insignificantes y no ponen una amenaza sobre la salud de ser humanos. "Esta declaración es falsa, y perjudicial a las personas que dependen de una organización financiada por impuestos para obtener información de salud en el que pueden confiar. 


Por estas razones y otras, FOTC cree que deben de quitarle los fundos y desregular YRCAA. El Departamento de Ecología del Estado de Washington debe investigar YRCCA  y hacerse cargo de la administración de la calidad del aire en el Condado de Yakima. La EPA debe intervenir como un asunto de justicia ambiental.



Message to Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency – August, 13, 2015

I am here to talk politics with respect to air pollution in Yakima County.

We know that agriculture contributes to air pollution. It would help if the agencies that are authorized to address problems in the Yakima Valley would tell us how much of local air pollution comes from each segment of agriculture. They have not done this so we are left with estimates from the literature.

There comes a time when the amount of pollution exceeds the ability of the environment to absorb it and compensate. For example, ammonia in the air acts as a fertilizer to plants. It is absorbed through their leaves. . . . up to a point. After that point it becomes toxic to the plants. After that point ammonia kills the plants. It would help if the agencies that are authorized to address air pollution problems in the Yakima Valley would provide an estimate of how much air pollution we can tolerate.


We know that air pollution contributes to eutrophication of the rivers and streams and that this worsens during periods of drought. We know that the Lower Yakima River is currently green with invasive plants that put this stretch of the river in the “impaired” category for pH and dissolved oxygen. (Wise et al, 2009). It would help to describe and clarify how ammonia in the air contributes to this situation. We all need this information in order to solve our collective problems.