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Environmentalists Agree to Pay Farm’s Legal Fees

September 15, 2011
 
 

Source: Wisconsin Dairy Business Association

After withdrawing a petition challenging Rosendale Dairy's WPDES CAFO permit that had been pending for two years, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) and their clients have paid Rosendale Dairy for legal and expert witness fees to settle the dairy's claim that MEA's claims are frivolous. Rosendale Dairy argued MEA's petition was frivolous and filed a motion with an administrative law judge asking for an award of the fees and costs it incurred defending against the petition. 

MEA and the Petitioners agreed to pay Rosendale Dairy to drop its fee claim before the judge could hear arguments on the claim. As part of the agreement, MEA also agreed to withdraw another pending petition challenging the same dairy. The settlement fully resolves the fee claim and ends both actions. 
 
"We hope that this result sends a message that the legal process should not be abused by those who attack Wisconsin farmers," said Jim Ostrom, one of the three partners in Milk Source, the owner of Rosendale Dairy, Wisconsin's largest dairy farm.  "Rosendale Dairy is one of the environmentally cleanest farms in the nation and the Wisconsin dairy industry has a global reputation to be proud of. We hope anti-farm activists think twice now before they assert meritless claims in the future against any Wisconsin dairy farmers."
 
In 2009, MEA, on behalf of eight neighbors living near Rosendale Dairy and an unincorporated citizens group called People Empowered to Protect the Land (PEPL), filed a petition seeking an administrative hearing challenging six issues concerning Rosendale Dairy's operating permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) - the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit.  The individual Petitioners include Elaine and Severin Swanson, Timothy and Lynn Thiel, Helen Parker, Charles Putzer, Philip Hoopman and Ann Lindstrom.  After Rosendale Dairy and WDNR filed motions for summary judgment in May of 2011, MEA voluntarily withdrew five of its six claims. 
 
Further briefing was ordered as to the remaining claim.  In an to attempt to keep its sole remaining claim from being dismissed, MEA retained a purported "expert" witness just six days before that briefing was due on the last claim and some 27 months after the petition was originally filed.  After MEA's expert was deposed by Rosendale Dairy's lawyers, MEA voluntarily withdrew its petition conceding the sole remaining claim was without basis.  MEA's expert admitted under oath that he had received no formal education in engineering, soil science, geology, hydrology or hydrogeology and that the only degree he holds qualifies him to teach mathematics and physics to high school students.
 
"What the record in this matter shows is that these opponents thought they could cobble together claims that were not supported by any scientific analysis or fact," Ostrom said.  "We went to great expense to defend against these unfounded and frivolous claims."
 
The Madison law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich represented Rosendale Dairy in the actions. "We are pleased we could attain this result," said David Crass, partner with Michael Best.  "To our knowledge, this is the first time an activist group paid to resolve a fight that it started."
 

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