Poultry Grower Wins Clean Water Act Suit Against EPA

West Virginia poultry farmer fights against NPDES permitting for stormwater runoff

Published on: Oct 25, 2013

A federal court in West Virginia Thursday sided with a poultry farmer who took the Environmental Protection Agency to court regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting.

The farmer, Lois Alt of West Virginia, was represented with the help of the American Farm Bureau and West Virginia Farm Bureau. She claimed the EPA had unlawfully threatened $37,500 in fines each time dust, feathers and other material from her poultry barns came in contact with stormwater on her property, unless she obtained an NPDES permit.

West Virginia poultry farmer fights against NPDES permitting for stormwater runoff
West Virginia poultry farmer fights against NPDES permitting for stormwater runoff

The original suit, filed in June 2012, alleged that EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt failed to apply the permit.  

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the outcome of the case will benefit thousands of other livestock and poultry farmers who should not have to get a federal permit for rainwater from their farmyards.

In ordering Alt to seek a permit, AFBF reports that the 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 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.

"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," said Stallman. "Lois Alt was proud of her farm and her environmental stewardship, and she stood her ground. We're proud to have supported her effort."

John Starkey, president of U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, noted similarly that USPOULTRY is "pleased that Ms. Alt’s legal uncertainty has been resolved in her favor by a common sense ruling that is consistent with a clear understanding of the Clean Water Act."

News sources: USPOULTRY, AFBF