WASHINGTON — Poultry and livestock farmers declared victory
Oct. 23 when a federal court ruled in favor of West Virginia poultry farmer Lois
Alt in a lawsuit she brought against the Environmental Protection Agency.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West
Virginia ruled that contrary to EPA’s contention, ordinary stormwater from Alt’s
farmyard is exempt from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit
Alt filed suit against EPA in June 2012 after the agency
threatened her with $37,500 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.
EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt
failed to apply for a NPDES permit for such stormwater discharges.
AFBF and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened alongside
Alt as co-plaintiffs to help resolve the issue for the benefit of other poultry
and livestock farmers.
“We are pleased the court flatly rejected EPA’s arguments
and ruled in favor of Lois Alt,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The outcome
of this case will benefit thousands of livestock and poultry farmers who run
their operations responsibly and who should not have to get a federal permit for
ordinary rainwater from their farmyards.”
In ordering Alt to seek a permit, EPA took the legal
position that the Clean Water Act’s exemption for “agricultural storm water
discharges” does not apply to farms classified as “concentrated animal feeding
operations” or “CAFOs,” except for areas where crops are grown. In other words,
any areas at a CAFO farm where crops are not grown, and where particles of
manure are present, would require a permit for rainwater runoff.
In April of this year, the federal court rejected efforts by
EPA to avoid defending its position by withdrawing the order against Alt.
In opposing EPA’s motion to dismiss, Alt and Farm Bureau
argued that farmers remained vulnerable to similar EPA orders, and the important
legal issue at stake should be resolved. The court agreed.
“This lawsuit was about EPA’s tactic of threatening farmers
with enormous fines in order to make them get permits that are not required by
law,” Stallman said. “Lois Alt was proud of her farm and her environmental
stewardship, and she stood her ground. We’re proud to have supported her