In a Dec. 21 press release, the West Virginia Farm Bureau Federation called it a "stunning move." That was the organization's response when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped its demand that Lois Alt, a West Virginia poultry producer in Hardy County obtain a Clean Water Act permit or face fines of $37,500 per day. EPA said the Alts were violating the CWA at their Eight is Enough Farm.
"West Virginia Farm Bureau is pleased that the EPA has withdrawn their order against the Alts," says WVFB spokesperson Joan Harman. "However, EPA has not changed their position, thus leaving other farmers in limbo regarding this issue. WVFB believes the EPA is overstepping their authority under the Clean Water Act, and cannot be allowed to continue to do so."
West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation were granted intervenor status in a lawsuit the Alts initially filed against the EPA in June 2012. EPA withdrew its order against the Alts following a May 2012 re-inspection, despite the fact that their inspection report cited the same conditions found in a November 2011 inspection.
"It is obvious that the EPA did not feel they had a case," says Harman.
Alt maintained her farm does not discharge and therefore does not need a permit. Ironically, the Eight is Enough farm has been recognized for environmental stewardship by Pilgrim's Pride.
WVFB and AFBF had asked the court to grant them intervenor status because they said any decision could affect thousands of other farmers who operate their poultry farms in the same manor as the Alts.
The United States district Court for the Northern District of West Virginia agreed.
In two previous cases AFBF had successfully defeated attempts by EPA to illegally impose permit requirements upon thousands of livestock and poultry farmers whose operations had no regulated discharge.