WASHINGTON — The American Farm Bureau Federation asked the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia to determine that
livestock and poultry farmers do not need Clean Water Act discharge permits for
ordinary stormwater runoff from their farmyards.
The joint motion, filed by AFBF, the West Virginia Farm
Bureau and West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt, would garner a win for farmers
nationwide if the court rules in their favor.
The July 1 motion comes on the heels of the court’s April
decision rejecting efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to dismiss
Alt’s case in its entirety in order to avoid defending its legal position in
This lawsuit began in 2012, when Alt challenged an EPA order
demanding that she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for ordinary
stormwater runoff from her farmyard or face $37,500 in fines each time the
stormwater came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on
the ground outside her poultry houses as a result of normal farming operations.
Despite the EPA’s withdrawal of the Alt order six weeks
before the legal briefing was scheduled to commence, the court agreed with Farm
Bureau and Alt that the case should go forward to clarify whether, as EPA
contends, discharge permits are required for “ordinary precipitation runoff from
a typical farmyard.”
“For the last year Lois Alt has courageously held her ground
against EPA not only to defend her own farm, but to help stop EPA from using its
muscle against other responsible farmers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
“We are honored to join with her to explain to the court how
EPA is misinterpreting the Clean Water Act and unlawfully using the full force
of the federal government to force farmers to seek permits when they are not
discharging to waters.”
According to the legal papers filed recently, Farm Bureau
and Alt ask the court to rule that stormwater from Alt’s farmyard, which
contains dust and other particles emitted or spilled as part of normal farm
operations, is within the meaning of the Clean Water Act’s exemption for
It asks the court to rule that EPA exceeded its authority in
finding stormwater from Alt’s farmyard was a Clean Water Act discharge and in
ordering Alt to obtain permit coverage.
“For the past decade, we have successfully challenged EPA’s
efforts to require discharge permits for concentrated animal feeding operations
that don’t discharge,” Stallman said. “Lois Alt’s courage in taking a stand
against EPA will help ensure that EPA cannot get around those important court
rulings by mischaracterizing rainwater from a well-run farm as an illegal
The EPA is expected to file its own motion with the court
defending its position and opposing Farm Bureau and Alt’s motion on Aug. 1.
Several environmental groups have intervened on behalf of the EPA and will file
a brief, too.