Activists Mired in Manure

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 5, 2006 | Go to article overview

Activists Mired in Manure


Byline: Steven Milloy, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Environmental activists are teaming up with state attorneys general and trial lawyers to bankrupt the nation's livestock farmers in the name of saving the environment. If the situation wasn't so serious, it would be hilarious.

The activists including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists are trying to convince Congress the nation's farms should be treated as industrial waste sites and therefore subject to severe penalties under the federal Superfund law. Some state attorneys general, supported by trial lawyers, have filed lawsuits to the same end. Why? They argue, animal manure is a hazardous substance.

They now demand Congress refuse to clarify that the Superfund law was never intended to apply to natural animal waste. They are claiming falsely that without Superfund, animal waste would be unregulated. Manure already is heavily regulated under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal and state regulations.

Proponents of adding animal waste to Superfund falsely claim small family farms won't be affected. Under Superfund, huge penalties can be levied against small operations and even individuals. Tens of thousands of small family farmers could be affected.

Congress never intended the Superfund law to apply to farms it was designed to clean up industrial waste sites like Love Canal. But because it did not specifically exempt animal waste, activists now seize on this lack of clarity to haul farmers before the courts and apply the draconian penalties permissible under Superfund.

If the activists succeed, farmers could face penalties of many millions of dollars, and thousands of small farmers could be forced off their land. "The domestic livestock industry would be driven from this country, the grain industry would be crippled, and farm families and communities would be devastated," Oklahoma Farm Bureau chief Steve Kouplen warned Congress last November. "If animal manure is found to be a hazardous substance under Superfund, then virtually every farm or ranch in the United States could be written off as a toxic Superfund site," says Missouri cattleman Mike John, also president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The activists' efforts are a deliberate distortion of law, devised by some local authorities and a small army of trial lawyers seeking large settlements in which they and the activist groups would be the chief beneficiaries. …

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