Poultry Farmerís Lawsuit Against EPA Not Dismissed

The American Farm Bureau Federation says a federal court has rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to dismiss a case brought by West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt. Alt had challenged an EPA order demanding she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for ordinary stormwater runoff from her farmyard. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled that although the EPA has withdrawn the Alt order - the case should go forward to clarify whether discharge permits are required as EPA was contending in Alt's case. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the court recognized EPA wasn't changing its underlying legal position in dismissing the Alt lawsuit - but just trying to avoid having to defend its position.

Alt filed suit against EPA last June after the agency threatened her with 37,500-dollars in fines each time stormwater came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on the ground outside of her poultry houses as a result of normal farm operations. Separate fines of 37,500-dollars per day were threatened if Alt failed to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for such stormwater discharges. To help resolve the issue for the benefit of other poultry and livestock farmers - Farm Bureau and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened as co-plaintiffs with Alt. The order was withdrawn by EPA in December.

But Farm Bureau said farmers remain vulnerable to similar EPA orders because the agency contends that the Clean Water Act statutory exemption for agricultural stormwater doesn't apply to stormwater from the farmyard at a concentrated animal feeding operation. Stallman says Farm Bureau is pleased that the court agreed that the stakes are high for all poultry and livestock farmers and this issue should be resolved.

The court is allowing environmental groups to intervene on the side of EPA - and ordered briefing on the Alt and Farm Bureau claims to begin by June 1st.

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