The poultry industry is running the Arkansas state government,
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Thursday, after
Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe asked the U.S. Supreme Court
for permission to sue the Sooner State.
Edmondson said Beebe's filing is just the latest in a string of
assaults he has faced from the poultry industry since June, when
Edmondson filed a lawsuit against eight Arkansas poultry companies -
including the world's largest, Tyson Foods Inc. - claiming the
companies are discharging chicken litter into the Illinois River in
excess of what Oklahoma's water quality standards and federal
environmental law allow.
Beebe accused Oklahoma of trying to impose its environmental laws
on Arkansas, to the detriment of one of Arkansas's biggest economic
drivers - the state's $2 billion poultry industry.
Oklahoma seeks to impose its own laws and regulations on economic
activity and citizens located within Arkansas' borders, reads
Beebe's filing. Agriculture is a primary stimulus of economic growth
in Arkansas, making up nearly 11 percent of its gross state product.
The poultry industry alone contributes greatly to this output.
In 2001, the poultry industry provided more than 50,000 jobs in
Arkansas, paid $1.21 billion in wages, and exerted a $1.68 billion
impact on Arkansas' economy, according to the filing.
By the plain language of its complaint, Oklahoma seeks to
significantly alter agricultural practices throughout the Illinois
River Watershed region, including those practices conducted within
the borders of Arkansas, reads the filing. As demonstrated by its
action in the federal district court, Oklahoma aims directly to
regulate lawful commercial activity within Arkansas's borders, as a
solution to its alleged pollution problems.
Edmondson said he was not surprised by Beebe's filing.
We have known for years that no bit of environmental legislation
gets passed in Arkansas unless Tyson and their buddies sign off on
it, said Edmondson. We have known for years that big poultry runs
government in the state of Arkansas, but they don't run government
in the state of Oklahoma, and they don't run the federal courts.
Oklahoma has 60 days in which to respond, and Edmondson said his
office intends to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court has a number of
options. The court could chose to enjoin Oklahoma's lawsuits, ending
Edmondson's legal battle with the poultry companies. The court could
allow the case to proceed, allowing Edmondson to fight for
enforcement of both federal and Oklahoma environmental standards.
Or, the court could allow the case to proceed addressing the federal
We anticipate the U.S. Supreme Court will deal with this issue
and allow the litigation to proceed, and we expect to prevail on
that litigation when the time comes, said Edmondson.
In his filing, Beebe said the dispute between the states should
be handled through the Arkansas River Basin Compact, which has been
in place since 1970 to address water quality issues for the rivers
shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas.
It's my belief that if Mike Beebe were not running for governor,
he wouldn't have done this, said Edmondson. …