On Monday, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia rejected an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismiss a case brought by West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt, scoring a win for poultry and livestock farmers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) who along with the West Virginia Farm Bureau are co-plaintiffs.
Alt had challenged an EPA order that she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for stormwater runoff at her farm or be faced with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater came in contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure outside of her poultry houses. EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt failed to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for such stormwater discharges. Alt responded with a lawsuit to challenging the order in June 2012.
EPA in December withdrew this order, but the U.S. Federal court ruled the case should go forward to clarify for farmers as to whether discharge permits are required for "ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard."
"EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn’t changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position."
In opposing EPA’s motion to dismiss, Alt and Farm Bureau argued that farmers remain vulnerable to similar EPA orders, because EPA stands by its contention that the Clean Water Act statutory exemption for "agricultural stormwater" does not apply to stormwater from the farmyard at a concentrated animal feeding operation.