OK Attorney General Drew Edmondson Opposes Bill Deeming Animal Waste Nonhazardous

Article excerpt

In an unusual move, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson sent a letter to state senators Friday citing his opposition to a bill that would define animal waste as nonhazardous.

I am writing to express my concerns with this misguided and harmful legislation, Edmondson wrote.

The attorney general was referring to Senate Bill 1703, by state Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, which is on the Senate floor calendar.

The bill is supported by some farming organizations.

We all know that animal manure isn't necessarily hazardous, but it can contain hazardous substances, Edmondson said.

The attorney general said that in a case now being litigated in federal court concerning poultry waste, the issue is arsenic, copper and zinc, which can be found in hundreds of thousands of tons of waste dumped on waste disposal fields in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Edmondson said the language in Coates' bill amounts to a blanket exemption for manure, carcasses and wastewater.

This legislation would exempt animal waste from every law that we have on the books dealing with hazardous materials, he said. This bill is bad for public health, and it's bad public policy.

Edmondson cited recent news accounts about a likely U.S. outbreak of bird flu.

This legislation would severely hamper efforts by our state's public health, agricultural and emergency management agencies to respond to and contain such an outbreak, he said.

Edmondson also told senators that Oklahoma already has standards in place to determine what is and is not hazardous.

Passing this legislation could have serious unintended consequences and could impact storage, transportation, disposal, containment and many other aspects of dealing with hazardous wastes, he said. …