Late last month a U.S. District Court in West Virginia ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency strong-arm tactics against a chicken farmer.
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The case, as reported in the California Farm Bureau’s Ag Alert has “implications for livestock producers in California and nationwide.”
The court ruled that ordinary stormwater from Lois Alt’s West Virginia poultry farm is exempt from the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.
Lois Alt has an eight-house chicken farm with ventilation system and a covered litter storage shed, a compost shed and feed storage bins. “Some particles of manure and spilled feathers have escaped the chicken houses. And, on occasion during rainstorms, runoff has flowed across a neighboring grassy pasture and into Mudlick Run,” which the EPA designated a “water of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA in June 2012 threatened her with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater made contact with dust and small bits of feathers and manure. You can bet it rains on a regular basis during the summer in West Virginia in addition to the winter.
And for failing to get an NPDES permit, the EPA called for additional fines of $37,500 each day Lois Alt failed to apply for a permit.
“This lawsuit was about the EPA’s tactics of threatening farmers with enormous fines in order to make them get permits that are not required by law,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. The American Farm Bureau and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened in her case.
The EPA tried to say that the agricultural stormwater exemption didn’t apply to “concentrated animal feeding operations.”
California Farm Bureau associate counsel Kari Fisher said, “It also affirms that incidental litter or manure are related to raising poultry and therefore are related to agriculture.”
It is just another example of a federal agency with too big a budget, too many people on staff, all of whom have a bias toward throwing their weight around, trying to squash as much business as possible. If the EPA had succeeded, this country would face a chicken, hog and cattle shortage. It would face abandoned farms throughout the country.
In the Northeast farms have been abandoned for economic reasons. That is a natural shift, not one forced by the government. It is a process that has been going on in that region since the 1920s as forests reclaim farmland and suburban forests recover from disease. From Pennsylvania to Maine, hardwood and softwood forests are covering more and more area.
The EPA under President Obama has been a hindrance to the economic well-being of this country, interfering with farming operations and trying to muscle state regulators aside as oil drillers fracture oil shale rock 10,000 feet below the surface.
The West Virginia chicken farm case is a small, but important victory against an EPA gone wild.