BACKING MANURE REGULATON CHANGE: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (right) with John Bailey of the Arkansas Farm Bureau.during Senate testimony.

Former Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission members have released a statement opposing SB 550, the bill intended to make it easier for operators of factory farms to dispose of, particularly, pig manure.

The bill transfers regulation of disposal of liquid animal waste from the Department of Environmental Quality to the farmer-friendly Natural Resources Commission, effectively negating any past regulation of, among others, the Buffalo River watershed and perhaps even the C and H factory hog farm near Mount Judea, though backers of the bill dispute that. The bill is so bad that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has spoken out against the Farm Bureau-backed measure, part of a national Farm Bureau effort to ease environmental regulations. In addition to threatening water through percolation though limestone formations, the massive land application of the waste is building up tremendous amounts of phosphorous that can wash into waterways.

The statement:, sent to leaders of the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee, where the Senate-passed bill goes next week:

We the undersigned who are former members of the Arkansas Pollution Control & Ecology Commission write to express our opposition to SB550.

The development of Regulation 5, which this act would negate, was a careful process. It involved negotiations with appropriate state agencies, the Arkansas Attorney General, critical stakeholders including the Arkansas Pork Producers, the Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Poultry Federation, various environmental organizations, the general public, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, there were public hearings held across the state. The regulatory framework that the Commission established through that process provided all interested parties the right to participate in the permitting process and to appeal final decisions on permits for the management of liquid animal waste.

Furthermore, we do not see the necessity to transfer this authority from ADEQ and the PC&E Commission or how this change will improve the regulatory process or the protections in place for the environment or those affected by decisions regarding these facilities. Eliminating ADEQ’s program has the potential to result in heightened scrutiny and additional regulation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill that is under consideration which would replace the current regulatory program lacks the components of the existing program discussed above and may be rife with unintende consequences as the attached letter suggests.

In closing, we believe that ADEQ and the PC&E Commission are uniquely qualified to administer the liquid animal waste permitting program in a manner to satisfy federal requirements for public participation and appeal rights.

For these reasons, we urge you to vote against SB550.

Tom Schueck
Dr. John Simpson
Allen Carter
Dr. Joseph Bates
Randy Wilbourn
John Chamberlin
Julia Mobley
Tri Watkins
Ann Henry

The Farm Bureau and the rural members of the legislature are a powerful combination. They don’t have much fear of environmentalists. Absent the passion for the algae-clogged Buffalo River, this probably would be no debate at all.

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