EPA moves to dismiss chicken farm lawsuit

CLARKSBURG — The federal government argued in a court filing last week that a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency over potential water pollution fines at a West Virginia chicken farm is now moot.

Plaintiff Lois Alt, owner of Eight is Enough farms, sued the EPA in June over its demand that Alt obtain a Clean Water Act permit or face fines of $37,500 a day.

The EPA claimed that the Alts were violating the CWA at their farm in the Old Fields section of Hardy County, in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.

Soon after, the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation were granted intervenor status in the suit.

However, the EPA withdrew its demand that Alt obtain a CWA permit or face fines late last month.

“West Virginia Farm Bureau is pleased that the EPA has withdrawn their order against the Alts,” WVFB spokeswoman Joan Harman said in a Dec. 21 statement, adding that it was “obvious” that the agency did not feel it had a case.

In a joint motion to stay summary judgment briefing filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia last week, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld III said given the EPA’s withdrawal of its order against Alt, the federal agency believes the matter is now “moot” and intends to move to dismiss the case.

“However, at present, Plaintiff and Plaintiff Intervenors are not willing to agree to dismissal of the matter absent further action by EPA,” he wrote in the Jan. 17 filing.

Ihlenfeld said the federal government, Alt, the WVFB and AFBF have agreed to hold discussions to determine whether steps can be taken or some agreement can be reached, “such that Plaintiff and Plaintiff-Intervenors would consent to the dismissal of the case.”

“The parties intend to hold an initial meeting to discuss this possibility within the next few weeks, and will continue those discussions to the extent they appear potentially productive afterwards,” he wrote in the four-page filing.

The WVFB said last month it intends to keep fighting on behalf of chicken farmers nationwide.

“The EPA has not changed their position, thus leaving other farmers in limbo regarding this issue,” Harman explained.

“WVFB believes the EPA is overstepping their authority under the Clean Water Act, and cannot be allowed to continue to do so.”

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