Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Congress Could Lay Waste to Oklahoma's Poultry Lawsuit

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Congress Could Lay Waste to Oklahoma's Poultry Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Congress is considering legislation that could dismantle Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's lawsuit against Arkansas poultry companies.

U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas have introduced a measure to remove manure from the list of substances considered toxic under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, better known as the Superfund law. Twenty-eight other members of Congress have joined in co-sponsoring the bill.

The new law reinforces the intent of Congress when writing the Superfund law 25 years ago, said Blunt. Nuclear waste is a toxic substance, manure is not. Heavy metals are a toxic substance, manure is not. A news release from Blunt's office said Congress needs to redefine animal waste in order to clarify the original intent of the Superfund law. Recently, some state and local authorities have reinterpreted CERCLA, arguing that animal waste is toxic in an effort to shut down livestock and poultry operations, reads the release.

Edmondson's office cited CERCLA in a lawsuit filed in June against eight large poultry companies the attorney general accuses of polluting Oklahoma's scenic waterways with chicken waste, in violation of state and federal environmental law.

In early November, Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to sue the state of Oklahoma, in defense of Arkansas' poultry companies. Beebe argued that the U.S. Constitution prohibits one state from imposing its laws upon another state. Edmondson countered that his lawsuit could still proceed based on federal environmental law. Edmondson's office has another month to respond to Beebe's filing with the court.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Kelly Hunter-Burch testified on Nov. 16 in Washington, D.C., before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, regarding the Blunt-Hall measure.

CERCLA is a long-standing federal law that provides a mechanism for states to protect their citizens and their environment from the danger of hazardous substances, said Hunter-Burch. …

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