MIKE FREEZE

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today wrote its story about a topic we reported Friday — the decision by new Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Mike Freeze of Keo to vote in favor of a permit for the C and H factory hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed despite having supported the permit as a private citizen before joining the commission. There’s more on the conflict-of-interest front.

Freeze has argued he could put his advocacy for C and H aside to give an unbiased decision on an administrative law judge’s findings. He voted Friday for the hog farm on a permit issue.

Environmentalists who said Freeze should recuse took care not to accuse him of bias, but said the appearance was enough that he should step aside.

Here’s more on the appearances issue from the statement of financial interest Freeze filed to serve on the commission.

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He received more than $12,500 in income last year as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation and more than $1,000 as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. He also reported more than $12,500 income from the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company.

The Farm Bureau is on record supporting the factory hog farm. The Farm Bureau is paying for the attorney who appeared before the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to argue for the hog feeding operation’s permit to discharge animal waste.

Freeze told me in an email yesterday that he’d avoided discussing the C and H issue since joining the commission.

I did state for the record that I recused myself from and physically left any and all Farm Bureau Board of Directors’ meetings if the C & H Hog Farm issue was going to be discussed.

I’d bet he was still able to find out the thinking of the organization that pays him and the hog farm attorney. His emails include news coverage of the issue.

The vote against one of the contested permits for C and H Friday was 8-3, with Freeze, Bruce Holland and Rusty Moss voting with the hog farm. Bruce Holland is the former senator Gov. Asa Hutchinson put in charge of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. It has been helping C and H on studies of the controversy and Holland has been quoted as saying tourist waste could be a contributing factor to pollution of the Buffalo.  Moss is a retired row crop and catfish farmer from Dermott.