News Feature | November 4, 2013

Chicken Farmer Beats EPA In Court

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The EPA overstepped its authority when it tried to force a West Virginia chicken farmer to obtain a stormwater permit, a federal court ruled last week.

As the agency saw it, Lois Alt needed a Clean Water Act permit because litter, feathers, and manure from her farm could wash into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Associated Press.

Failure to comply would mean fines up to $37,500 a day, Energy & Environment Daily reported.  Here's a copy of the notification Alt received from the agency.

Alt decided to fight the charges, taking the agency to court. The EPA backed down, withdrawing the fines and offering to dismiss the issue, the AP said. 

But Alt pushed ahead anyway, backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the West Virginia Farm Bureau. As they saw it, "a favorable ruling for EPA would open concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs" to stronger permitting requirements, E&E Daily reported.  

In the opinion issued last week, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey said runoff from the farm was covered under a Clean Water Act exemption for agricultural stormwater, the report said. 

"The only requirement is that the exempt discharge must be agriculture related," Bailey wrote. "It is clear that the incidental manure and litter are related to the raising of the poultry and are therefore related to agriculture."

The result was seen as a "major victory for agriculture," the E&E article said. 

Environmentalists had taken the EPA's side, according to a release posted to Water Online earlier this year. They stressed the size of the chicken farm, saying it "houses 200,000 chickens at any one time."

What now?

The EPA "would not comment on whether it would appeal Bailey's decision or what its next step would be," West Virginia's State Journal reported

For more about the Chesapeake Bay, including the "cap and trade" approach to nutrient removal, check out previous coverage on Water Online. 

Image credit: "Chicken farm near Louth, Lincolnshire," © 2007 petercooperuk, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: