A state lawmaker is facing up to $177,500 in fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for discharging waste from his northwestern Tennessee hog farm without a permit.
WTVF-TV in Nashville first reported Thursday that the EPA has filed the complaint against state Rep. Andy Holt, a Dresden Republican and vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. According to the filing, Holt's farm discharged a total of more than 860,000 gallons from lagoons on the farm raising nearly 1,500 swine without proper authorization.
Holt, who has been a vocal critic of the EPA, told WTVF that he "loves a good fight," but that he has also been in discussions about a settlement. He said he self-reported the discharges to the state after heavy rainfall had caused the lagoons to overflow.
State records have showed that Holt ran his farm without a permit for nearly three years when he was finally ordered to turn in required permitting paperwork in 2012. While Holt submitted incomplete papers in 2012 and 2013, the state let him keep operating.
Holt said he ceased operations on his hog farm around December 2014.
An inspector in 2011 found improperly buried hogs on Holt's farm and photographed hog waste being pumped from an overflowing lagoon into a nearby creek. But the inspector wrote that an enforcement action had been "discouraged by upper management."
Both Gov. Bill Haslam and his commissioner of environment and conservation, Bob Martineau, denied that Holt had received special treatment.
Haslam last year vetoed a bill sponsored by Holt because of what he called an unintended consequence of reducing criminal penalties for pollution in Tennessee.
"We have to protect our land and water for future generations so it remains an attractive place for people to live, work and raise a family," Haslam said in his veto message.
Holt this year has advocated for the state attorney general to join a federal lawsuit against the EPA for what he called the agency's overstepping of its authority.
"Whether they are targeting farmers, terrorizing businesses or simply trampling the rights of homeowners on their own property, it is obvious that the EPA is an agenda driven creation of big government," Holt said in a release last month.