The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission will hear oral arguments tomorrow morning (Friday, Jan. 27) regarding a permit which would allow a farm in the Buffalo River watershed to distribute up to 6.6 million gallons of hog waste on its property. The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality headquarters in North Little Rock.
At issue is a permit modification that ADEQ granted to Ellis Campbell last year. Campbell is the owner EC Farms, which hopes to use its property to distribute the hog waste generated by nearby C&H Farms, a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that holds up to 6,500 swine. Background on the EC Farms dispute is here and here.
Last year, a group of petitioners argued that ADEQ erred in modifying Campbell’s existing hog farm permit rather than requiring him to apply for a new permit for the ‘land farming’ of hog waste from another facility. Administrative law judge Charlie Moulton ruled in favor of petitioners Carol Bitting, Lin Wellford and Dr. Nancy Haller, who call themselves “The Three Grandmothers.” However, Moulton stipulated in his ruling that EC Farms shouldn’t have to go through the entire application process again, and that he could merely pay a fee for a new permit and receive a new tracking number from ADEQ.
The petitioners object to that and say Campbell should indeed have to apply for a brand new permit. This matters because a new permit application process would open the door for petitioners to raise all manner of objections to EC Farms’ land farming plans. Richard Mays, the petitioners’ attorney, stated in his request for oral arguments that “there is a significant difference in the scope of comments that can be made by the public to a proposed new permit and a proposed ‘modification’ of a permit.”
The ALJ [administrative law judge] found in his Recommended Decision that Regulation 5 provides for two separate and distinct permits, and that one cannot be modified to the other. Instead, a new permit must be issued to change the operations from confined animal feedings operations to land-disposal operations only, and vice-versa. However, he did not find that the complete permitting process, including public notice and opportunity to comment, should be required, but only the assignment of a new permit number and payment of the applicable fee for a new permit. It is this last portion of the Decision to which Appellant objects.