Attorneys for C&H Hog Farms have filed a request to stay the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision to deny the farm a new operating permit to replace its expired one and effectively shut down the farm.
The farmers will file a request for a hearing before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, the department's appellate body, the stay request reads.
The request for a stay was filed with the commission.
In a statement sent Thursday to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the farmers called the department's decision to deny their permit request "politically motivated." They, along with the Arkansas Farm Bureau in a separate statement, noted that the farm has not had any environmental violations since it opened nearly five years ago. It did have one violation related to paperwork.
It was unclear after conversations with department and commission officials Thursday how soon the farm would have to close if no action is taken to stay or reverse the department's denial of the new permit request.
Various environmental groups have opposed the Newton County hog farm, citing fear that its location on a creek 6 miles from where the tributary feeds into the Buffalo National River could jeopardize the river quality.
The department told the farmers in a letter dated May 3, 2016, that the farm could continue to operate under its original -- though expired -- permit until the department decided on the new permit request.
Under department Regulation 8.612, "the denial of a permit shall stand" during commission review. Only "the issuance, modification, or revocation of a permit or that part of a permit which is the subject of the appeal shall be stayed, unless otherwise required by state or federal law," the regulation reads.
"There is no risk of harm to the public if a stay of the permitting decision is granted," the filing reads. "A stay is fair, equitable, and necessary to protect the business interests of C&H and its owners, who have pledged substantial personal assets, including their homes, to finance the operations of C&H. C&H and its owners will be irreparably harmed if a stay is not granted."
The department said Wednesday in denying the new permit request that it did not have sufficient information to ensure compliance with Regulation 5.402, which sets out the design and waste management systems as described in a technical guide and a federal handbook that's published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The filing further notes that the farmers had believed they had submitted all of the information the department had requested. The filing includes emails exchanged Dec. 29, the day the information was due to the department, discussing whether requested information had been supplied.
The documents show that C&H attorney Bill Waddell emailed Mike McAllister, managing attorney for the department, that morning asking him to confirm that the farmers had submitted all required information identified as missing in a Dec. 27 letter.
McAllister replied 41 minutes later, referring to a phosphorus index sent to the department and said "it appears that your client has responded to the issues identified in the 12/27 letter that were based on technical staff's initial review of the submissions."
On Thursday, the farmers and the Arkansas Farm Bureau each sent statements to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette expressing dismay regarding the department's decision to deny the new permit request.
"ADEQ's reason for denial is inexplicably vague and leaves us guessing as to exactly why the permit was denied," the farmers wrote. "We can only assume that they have no valid ground."
The Farm Bureau called the decision "decidedly unfair" and detrimental to property owners.
"If this farm can't be permitted, it's likely no farm in Arkansas can meet Reg. 5 requirements," the statement reads. "This farm has been through more environmental scrutiny than any other property in our state -- without a single citation for violation. Yet, their permit is apparently being denied on a technicality, for what are apparently politically expedient, non-merits-based reasons and not on matters of science."
Metro on 01/12/2018
Print Headline: Newton County hog farm seeks to stay state's denial of operating permit