Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 28 Feb 2018 8:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The time to act is NOW.  Only three days to contact legislators


    Find your state legislators and their contact info HERE


    Draft bills that threaten the Buffalo are currently being written. We ask our elected officials to:

    • Support responsible agriculture.  Agriculture is a vital part of our economy and way of life as Arkansans. The Buffalo River Watershed has a strong history of family farming.However, C&H Hog Farm contracts with JBS, a Brazilian-based multinational conglomerate with a well-documented record of corruption and environmental degradation around the world.  As the crown jewel of the Natural State and an economic engine for tourism, the unique geology of the Buffalo National River Watershed  is not an appropriate location for industrial farming facilities.    
    • Support adequate resources for ADEQ. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality needs to have adequate funding and resources to conduct proper permitting review and transparency.  Restricting resources necessary to protect our air and water will harm all Arkansans.  
    • Support due process. C&H applied for a new permit to operate that was denied by ADEQ. C&H is appealing the denial of the permit through the established administrative process. Permitting decisions should be made by experts at the agency, and should not be interfered with midstream by legislators while the process is playing out. 
  • 28 Feb 2018 2:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Panel OKs broader Buffalo River tests 

    This article was published today at 4:30 a.m         

     

    The Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday advanced a proposal that would increase spending authority for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture to perform water quality studies to monitor swine farming operations in the Buffalo National River watershed.

    The funding, for fiscal 2019, would increase from $100,000 to $200,000.

    The proposal also would extend the studies for three more fiscal years -- beyond the four fiscal years intended to end in fiscal 2019 -- until fiscal year 2022, said Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville. Douglas proposed this change to Senate Bill 77, the operations appropriation for the UA System and various divisions for fiscal 2019 that starts July 1.

    "To reassure the canoeing public out there and recreational [people] that the Buffalo River is not in danger or that if there are problems that they are being found and being recognized, I feel like we need to continue this study for another three years," Douglas told lawmakers.

    The studies will be continue to be conducted on behalf of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The Agriculture Division will report the results and progress of these studies to legislative committees under SB77.

    Douglas said he was assured the studies would be funded.

    In response to questions by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, Douglas said his proposal had nothing to do with the Department of Environmental Quality denying an operating permit to C&H Hog Farms on technical deficiencies. The farm's owners have appealed to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission.

    C&H Hog Farms operates in the Buffalo National River watershed, along Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek feeds into the Buffalo River. The farm has a permit to house 6,503 hogs at any given time and includes two storage ponds for hog manure and fields where hog manure is spread as fertilizer.

    Afterward, Douglas said draft legislation he is circulating for an upcoming special session wouldn't affect C&H Hog Farms. He declined to provide a copy of the draft to a reporter.

    -- Michael R. Wickline and John Moritz

  • 28 Feb 2018 1:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hog manure and more hog manure at the legislature

    Posted By Max Brantley on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 9:29 AM

     

    I've reported this week that the Arkansas Farm Bureau is working on legislation to override the state's denial of a continuing permit for the C and H Hog Farm in Newton County.

    Opponents of the farm anticipated the legislature would provide a sop, in the form of financial support for continued University of Arkansas study of pollution in the watershed and that the special legislative session expected to follow this regular budget session would take up still unrevealed legislation to protect C and H in some fashion.

    Yesterday, guess what? Joint Budget approved an increase in funding for the UA Agriculture Division to continue to study the impact of swine farming near the Buffalo River.

    Rep. Dan Douglas, the sponsor, INSISTED this had NOTHING to do with the C and H permit.

    Let's make it simple. Dan Douglas wants to continue to monitor the impact of swine farming in the Buffalo River watershed through 2022, instead of ending in 2019. Doesn't this mean Douglas expects C and H, the only factory hog farm in the watershed, to continue to operate? (It's currently on borrowed time during appealof the denial.)

    Dollars to Brazil (which owns the hogs). Pork chops to China, which imports the meat. Hog shit to the scenic Buffalo River. Your Arkansas government at work.

    PS — Dan Douglas says a little ol' bill he's planning for the special session also has NOTHING TO DO WITH C AND H. So how come he won't show it to anyone? 
  • 27 Feb 2018 12:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    Farm Bureau push for Buffalo River hog feeding operation continues

    Posted By Max Brantley on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:58 AM


    Legislative lips remain largely sealed, but environmentalists attempting to protect the Buffalo River from factory hog farm waste say they continue to expect emergence of legislation to override the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and clear continued operation of the C and H Hog Farm in Newton County, whose topical application of hog waste, it is feared, could pollute the Buffalo National River, an Arkanas scenic treasure.

    The Arkansas Farm Bureau, both a powerful political lobby and immense insurance company, fears overly stringent environmental regulation of farming could put farmers out of business. Environmentalists are putting out the message that sending premiums to Farm Bureau is paying to support pollution of the Buffalo River.

    The farm fattens Brazilian owned hogs for slaughter and export.

    The environmentalists' battle cry:

    Dollars to Brazil, pork chops to China, hog shit to the Buffalo.

    Legislative leaders had suggested, outside normal rules, a Monday deadline for filing of bills for the special session Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to call. As yet, no formal proposals have emerged on the Buffalo or the hotly contested pharmacy reimbursements under the Medicaid expansion. Early filing or no, a two-thirds vote of the legislature can expand topics in any session. The hog farm legislation is being circulated with an eye toward gathering that level of support.

    C and H has been denied a new permit after years of controversy over the 6,000-hog feeding factory that produces millions of gallons of urine and feces. It continues operating while appealing. It and defenders contend it is operating within environmental limits and not harming the Buffalo. Opponents say that is hogwash.
  • 27 Feb 2018 11:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At least 3 issues make deadline for special Arkansas legislative session

    ATVs, alcohol, Rx recompense get by

    By John Moritz, Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: February 27, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAONLINE


    Lawmakers on Monday finished drawing up bills they hope to have considered during an expected in-and-out special session to be held later this spring.


    Drafts of at least three pieces of legislation -- dealing with all-terrain vehicles, open-container prohibitions and pharmacy benefit managers -- were submitted by the deadline set by legislative leaders, lawmakers said.


    Notably absent from the trio of bills was any legislation dealing with guns, and backers of measures related to campus carry said Monday that they would try other options for having their proposals heard.


    Meanwhile, some legislators were reportedly looking for a means of addressing the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's rejection of C&H Hog Farms' application for a new permit, though it was unclear whether they had come up with a proposal to do so by Monday's deadline for draft legislation.


    The governor and legislative leaders have sought to ensure that a special session held at the end of the ongoing fiscal session will be compact by avoiding complicated issues that are likely to spawn lengthy debates.


    Sponsors of any proposals for the session are expected to gather signatures from two-thirds of members ahead of time to show that their bills have broad support.


    In identical letters to the governor earlier this month asking for a special session to be called, the House speaker and the Senate president pro tempore set Monday as the deadline for final drafts of bills intended for the session to be completed.


    The first two issues were submitted last week, dealing with the off-road vehicles and alcoholic drinks in cars. They are considered technical fixes to existing legislation that do not have opposition, and their sponsors said Monday that they had near-unanimous support from colleagues.


    The most highly publicized issue of the special session -- the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers -- went through its final edits on Monday, said one sponsor, state Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne.


    Lawmakers and Gov. Asa Hutchinson have expressed a desire to put pharmacy benefit managers under the scrutiny of the state insurance commissioner, after a large number of the state's independent pharmacists complained they have been squeezed by cuts to their reimbursements rates for generic drugs that were enacted at the start of the year.


    Gray said she collected about 25 signatures from her House colleagues willing to take up the issue, before pausing her signature-gathering last week to focus on drafting the bill. She said last week that she would not try to bring up her proposed regulatory bill during the fiscal session, after Hutchinson assured her it would be put on the call for a special session. The governor sets the agenda for special sessions.


    The Bureau of Legislative Research, which assists lawmakers in drafting legislation, on Monday put the finishing touches on legislation Gray is sponsoring with state Sen. Ronald Caldwell, R-Wynne, Gray said. She said she expects to get signatures from about 80 House members expressing a willingness to consider the changes.


    Also Monday, Donald Ragland, a Republican from Searcy County who was effectively elected to the House this month but who has not yet been sworn in, said efforts were underway to address a controversial hog farm in his district during the special session.

    Ragland said legislators are working on finding a way to keep C&H Hog Farms open through a measure that could be passed in the special session. Ragland said he has been sitting in on meetings with legislators but not participating. He won the Feb. 13 Republican primary for a vacant House seat and is running unopposed in a subsequent special election.


    He did not say what measures lawmakers were considering. Messages left for lawmakers said to be involved in the possible legislation were not returned Monday.

    C&H Hog Farms, which houses 6,503 hogs, is located on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo National River. It has faced criticism from people who are concerned that hog manure spread on nearby land is causing, or could cause, pollution in the river. The Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas Pork Producers' Association have defended the farm, arguing that the information C&H opponents is using to prove pollution is occurring does not actually show that pollution.


    The department denied the farm's new permit, effectively shutting the farm down pending an ongoing appeal, after determining the farm's application was incomplete because it did not contain a study on the flow direction of groundwater or an emergency action plan.


    While most lawmakers intent on getting their legislation considered for the special session deferred to the demands of leadership, others said they were charting their own courses.


    Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, characterized the demands for signature gathering as "extra-constitutional" and said he would push to get his proposed fix to campus-carry legislation on the governor's call without collecting a single name.


    The state constitution's section on special -- or "extraordinary" -- sessions doesn't say anything about requiring proof of support ahead of time for legislation that would be on the call. Once a special session is underway, lawmakers can tackle other items not on the governor's call by a two-thirds vote.


    Garner helped pass the campus-carry law, Act 562 of 2017, allowing gun owners to receive extra training in order to take concealed handguns onto college campuses and into other public areas. But Garner says the legislation inadvertently required all instructors to teach the "enhanced" courses, even if they disagree with them. The senator says he wants to allow instructors to opt out.


    "It's good legislation and it should be on the call, but I refuse to play this game where there is extra requirements to get something in the special session," Garner said Monday.


    Both Garner and another lawmaker who has proposed offering opt-out legislation, Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said Monday that they think the issue also can be solved through rule-making by delaying the requirement until after the 2019 general session. They said they would accept that option as an alternative. The rules for issuing enhanced licenses were developed by the Arkansas State Police.


    Democrats, who have proposed their own changes to Act 562, namely prohibiting guns in school dormitories, similarly are not filing legislation for the special session.

    The special session will be called once the ongoing fiscal session, which deals with budget issues, ends. Legislative leaders have said they hope to wrap up the fiscal session by mid-March.


    Calendar

    The calendar of public events of the 91st General Assembly for today, the 16th day of the 2018 fiscal session.


    COMMITTEES

    9 a.m. Joint Budget Committee, Room A, Multi-Agency Complex.

    1 p.m. House Management Committee, fourth-floor conference room.

    Upon adjournment of both chambers, Special Language Subcommittee of the Joint Budget Committee, Room B, Multi-Agency Complex.

    SENATE

    1 p.m. Senate convenes.

    HOUSE

    1:30 p.m. House convenes.

    A Section on 02/27/2018

  • 26 Feb 2018 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    Alert: Buffalo River power play looming at legislature

    Posted By Max Brantley on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 7:43 AM


    The Arkansas legislative budget session seems likely to end on schedule in mid-March with little fanfare, apart from some special interest legislation for a voucher-like program to transfer state tax money to private school tuition. Special ed kids? More parole officers? Can't afford those things.

    But the bigger news is what's in store for the special legislative session to be called immediately after this session's end — good news for legislators like Sen. Trent Garner, who run up handsome untaxed per diem payments for lurking at the Capitol doing mischief year-round.

    One battle is well-known: What will the legislature do to address pharmacists' unhappiness about reimbursement rates for those covered by the Medicaid expansion program, particularly those (most of them) covered by Arkansas Blue Cross, which uses CVS as manager of pharmacy reimbursements. Druggists say they are losing money on many prescriptions and CVS is giving better deals to its own pharmacies. Proposals are floating, but a solid, specific solution hasn't yet emerged. The irony of a Republican governor and legislature looking for new ways to regulate the private insurance business is an entertaining feature of the debate. Pharmacists, too, tend to normally fall on the conservative, anti-government end of the spectrum.

    But I'm burying the lead. Word comes that the powerful Arkansas Farm Bureau is lining up votes for legislation to override a state environmental judge's finding that denied a new permit for the C and H Hog Farm in the Buffalo River watershed in Newton County. The Farm Bureau sees the shutdown of C and H, still operating on appeal, as the first step down a slippery slope for others.

    How do you override the ruling without effectively ending Department of Environmental Quality review in general? Good question. Or maybe that's the idea.

    The scheme reportedly includes a sop — money to continue University of Arkansas studies of effects of the hog operation on pollution in the Buffalo and its tributaries. Factory hog farm advocates contend the science shows the farm isn't harming the Buffalo. The groups fighting the hog farm say otherwise. They think the UA researchers are beholden to the agriculture industry (Tyson Foods is a major benefactor of the agri department) and that the research to date has eliminated as "outliers" findings of increased pollution in water following heavy rain, a time when field-spread hog waste is most likely to cause runoff of pollutants and an important data point for studying stream pollution. If they ever get a hearing, environmental advocates have scientists of their own. But the legislative action could nullify future hearings.

    Can the Farm Bureau be stopped? It's rare. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has reportedly acquiesced to the hog farm decision override in a special session if the backers can demonstrate two-thirds support, the vote needed to broaden the call of a special session. They may be close to having those votes in hand, according to my source in the environmental community.

    If they succeed, does it open the door to an explosion of factory hog farming in the Buffalo River watershed and other sensitive locations?

    Opponents have a talking point:

    C and H feeds hogs owned by a Brazilian conglomerate to produce pork to sell in China.

    Brazil gets the dollars. China gets the pork chops. Arkansas and the Buffalo River get the hog shit.

    Yes, C and H Hog Farm does create jobs. Somebody has to slop, and then shovel after, those 6,000 hogs. It's no small task — millions of gallons of urine and feces.
  • 25 Feb 2018 4:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MASTERSON ONLINE: Science on the Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: February 24, 2018 at 2:03 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    Those intent on leaving C&H Hog Farms in its precarious location along the Buffalo National River watershed are advocating science, rather than emotion, to make their case.


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) denied the factory owners’ application for a revised operating permit last month, allowing it to continue functioning on its original general permit pending appeal to the state’s Pollution Control and Ecology Commission.


    Science, what a dilly-dilly of an idea! I submit a letter written by Gerald Delavan, a former 30-year-veteran professional geologist with the department. His former agency in 2012 issued a permit to establish this swine factory along Big Creek, just 6 miles upstream from our state’s most popular attraction.


    Delavan retired in 2014. He understands the science of karst subsurfaces in sensitive regions such as the Buffalo watershed. Below is part of an extensively detailed letter Delavan sent in 2017, edited for space, to Jamal Solaimanian, engineering supervisor for the agency’s Water Quality permitting branch, copied to the governor.


    “The review and approval of the initial C&H Hog Farms permit application … to allow the land application and disposal of a large volume of untreated hog waste in the Big Creek watershed under a general permit … was at best poorly conceived and poorly executed by Water Division staff.


    “The initial C&H permit application … to land apply hog waste at this location was never reviewed by any of the professional geologists working in the Water Division … prior to the permit being issued. To my knowledge, none of the ADEQ staff geologists were ever offered the opportunity to participate.


    “The C&H permit application was reviewed and approved exclusively by the ADEQ Engineers working in the Water Division. Consequently, any potential problems concerning the release of liquid waste into the local groundwater from the manure holding ponds at C&H were never discussed or evaluated by ADEQ geology staff.


    “In addition, the potential for waste-contaminated surface water runoff to be discharged into Big Creek and for the infiltration of waste contaminates into groundwater from the land application sites through the underlying karst limestone geology was never discussed or reviewed by any ADEQ geology staff prior to issuance of the … initial permit.


    “ADEQ staff engineers never requested any geologic borings be installed, or performed additional geologic evaluation of the proposed holding pond locations prior to issuing the … permit. The known presence of karst geology beneath the proposed locations for the manure holding ponds and the proposed land application sites should have raised a major “red flag” for any ADEQ engineer reviewing this permit application.


    “The limestone geology beneath the hog farm site and beneath the land application sites and the region is known to be highly fractured, with numerous voids and conduits which move surface water and groundwater rapidly through a vast system of inter-connected fractures, solution channels and springs just inches below the soil profile.


    “Given the sensitive geologic nature of this proposed hog farm location, the appropriate thing to do would have been for ADEQ Water Division to expand the permit application review process to include the ADEQ professional geologist staff … . There was little or no geologic information about the hog farm or the land application sites provided in the C&H permit application.


    “[T]o evaluate the geology of a site you need site-specific information. Therefore, the reviewing geologist would have most likely requested an additional geologic evaluation be performed in and around the proposed holding pond locations prior to approving construction.


    “Additional borings placed in and around the proposed holding pond locations would have provided the additional data needed to determine if there are any karst features present beneath the holding ponds such as solution channels, caves, or void spaces which could impact the integrity of the constructed pond liners and/or provide an avenue for rapid transport if and when any liquid wastes are released from these liquid waste holding ponds.


    “If this data had been requested and provided by the applicant, the reviewing geologist could have in turn had input in the permit review process and assisted the reviewing engineers in making informed decisions regarding the site itself and the larger issue of whether it was appropriate to approve a permit [for] a hog farm at this location at all.


    “If ADEQ had given its geologists an opportunity to review and comment on C&H’s permit application, it is highly unlikely any of the professional geologists performing the review would have signed off on or approved the proposed permit for the C&H holding pond locations without requesting additional geologic data be gathered about the proposed holding pond locations and proposed land application sites.


    “I believe the permit application review process conducted by the Water Division engineers … was severely flawed, as it failed to adequately consider several issues, the first being the potential impact of locating this hog farm and its associated land application sites on the shallow karstic limestone geology found beneath the site.


    “In addition, Water Division engineers were clearly malfeasant in their review of the C&H permit application, as they failed to consider missing key data needed to properly and adequately evaluate the potential impact of this hog farming operation on the local environment.


    “The [required Environment Assessment] prepared for and submitted by C&H in its permit application barely mentions and/or discusses the subsurface geology found beneath the sites and failed to even mention the shallow karst limestone found beneath the site and/or discuss any possible impacts hog farm operations may or may not have on shallow local groundwater supplies present beneath the farm and land application sites. The EA also failed to discuss any potential impacts to surface water quality or groundwater quality from waste infiltration or wastewater runoff at the land application sites.


    “It is clear Water Division engineers and ADEQ senior staff, by overlooking these omissions in the C&H permit application and by not requesting additional information be provided in regards to these omissions, ADEQ failed to adequately review the C&H permit application as submitted, and therefore should not have issued the final permit to C&H until such time as these deficiencies in the permit application were addressed.

    “It is also my opinion, ADEQ was also malfeasant by not having an ADEQ registered professional geologist or any other geologist from any agency, independent or otherwise, review and comment on this proposed hog farm permit prior to its approval and issuance.”


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.


  • 19 Feb 2018 1:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas hog farm in Buffalo River watershed ordered to manage manure

    Operation OK’d to remain open

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: February 19, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.



    NWAOnline

    Credit: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/EMILY WALKENHORST
    FILE — Sanders Farm in Newton County contained as many as 3,200 hogs this summer, with some let loose to roam outdoors to alleviate crowding.


    Operators of an unpermitted hog farm in the Buffalo River's watershed must clear improperly stored hog manure and develop a plan to manage the manure by March 15, a judge has ordered.


    But the farm won't have to shut down or get an operating permit, Boone County Circuit Judge Gail Inman-Campbell ruled this month.


    The farm can continue to operate under a dry-litter manure management system, in which hog manure is combined with straw or hay to absorb the manure and create dry bedding that can eventually be used as fertilizer.


    Late last year, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sued Sanders Farm, located just outside Western Grove, for operating without a permit in a watershed that had a moratorium on new hog farms of its size and for letting liquid hog manure leak to a nearby creek.


    But permits -- and the regulations and moratoriums that dictate them -- are required for only liquid manure systems, which the department failed to prove Sanders Farm was using, Inman-Campbell ruled.


    The department at one time required dry-manure farms to have permits, but the department changed its regulations in 2012 to exempt them, records show.

    The department did not respond to a question about whether it would appeal the judge's ruling.


    "I thought the judge was fair and reasoned in her judgment and fair with her ruling," said Robert Ginnaven, Sanders Farm's attorney. 


    The liquid manure escaped from Sanders Farm property, according to testimony, when the farmers were unable to sell their hogs and their operation grew from about 2,400 hogs to about 3,200 -- more than they could handle.


    Pat and Starlinda Sanders, who own the farm, said they couldn't sell their pigs because they had been ill. So they let pigs roam from their property to reduce crowding and began storing some dry-litter manure outside, where rain hit it, turned it back to a liquid and it drained off of the property.


    Department officials said the manure washed into Cedar Creek, which eventually drains into the Buffalo National River.


    Because some waste was liquid and had washed into nearby waterways, the department argued that the farm was using a liquid manure management system and needed a permit.


    A map showing the location of Sanders Farm

    "The defendants have been forthright about their actions and admitted they created this situation by releasing the hogs and have taken responsibility for their actions acknowledging the grave danger to the environment if allowed to continue," Inman-Campbell wrote in her ruling. "The court believes the defendants' testimony expressing their remorse for this whole debacle."


    The farm must stop releasing its hogs from the barns, use its dry-manure disposal system, empty the contents of the dry-manure stacking barns by March 15, revegetate the area between one barn and County Road 50, replace the wood walls of one stacking barn with cinder blocks and write a nutrient-management plan for the manure by March 15, according to the order.


    The farmers have begun to revegetate the land with grass and have contacted people who have agreed to collect the manure from the stacking barns and to draft a nutrient-management plan, Ginnaven said.


    In 2012, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission voted to remove dry-manure facilities from its Regulation 6 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which cover concentrated animal feeding operations, which Sanders Farm would be.


    Regulation 5, under which many hog farms are permitted, is titled "liquid animal waste management systems."


    The regulation removal came at the suggestion of the Department of Environmental Quality, under the administration of director Teresa Marks. In 2003, the department, under the administration of Marcus Devine, pushed the commission to pass emergency rules to require permits for dry-manure operations.


    In both requests, the department cited changes at the federal level for their need to alter Arkansas' regulations.


    In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expanded on the types of farms that needed permits, including medium and large concentrated animal feeding operations.


    The EPA later amended its regulations again for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and made no reference to dry-manure hog operations.

    The state Environmental Quality Department's concentrated animal feeding operation regulations have always been more strict than those at the federal level, as evidenced by requiring permits for non-discharge liquid-waste hog farms, said Ryan Benefield, deputy director for the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and a former deputy director for the Environmental Quality Department.


    In 2011, after the EPA again changed its regulations, the department decided to remove the dry-manure requirements, which agricultural groups had previously sought.


    Benefield said he doesn't know how many dry-manure hog farms are in the state. The commission writes voluntary nutrient management plans for farmers, but he said he's not aware of any that have been written for hog farms that use dry manure.


    Because permits aren't required, it's difficult to gauge how many dry-manure hog farms are in Arkansas, said Steve Eddington, an Arkansas Farm Bureau spokesman.

    "I am aware that some of the free-range pork producers are utilizing dry manure, but there is no way that I am aware of to pinpoint the number of farms using that practice," Eddington said.

    Metro on 02/19/2018


  • 14 Feb 2018 12:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hog-farm appeal input OK'd; environmental groups allowed in as permit denial advances

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: February 14, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    m.

    Mitchell PE MasilunThe C&H Hog Farms’ operation, shown May 4, sits near a Buffalo River tributary in Newton County.


    Two environmental groups can intervene in a hog farm's appeal of its permit denial, an administrative law judge has ordered.


    C&H Hog Farms has appealed the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's denial of its operating permit to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, with a hearing tentatively scheduled for Aug. 6-8.


    The commission's administrative law judge, Charles Moulton, ruled Friday that the Ozark Society and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, both of which oppose the farm's permit application, could intervene in the appeal, but he declined to rule on the extent to which they can participate.


    C&H Hog Farms is owned by Jason Henson, Philip Campbell and Richard Campbell and operates near Mount Judea in Newton County. It's in the Buffalo National River watershed, along Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek feeds into the Buffalo River. The farm has a permit to house 6,503 hogs at any given time and includes two storage ponds for hog manure and fields where hog manure is spread as fertilizer.


    Opponents of the farm argue that the rocky terrain makes operation of a large hog farm an unsuitable use for the land, and that it poses a risk to the river and groundwater by way of surface runoff and porous rock underground.


    C&H owners applied for a new permit to replace their expiring one in 2016, but the department denied the application in January of this year, which would effectively shut down the farm. It is allowed to remain open during the appeal process.


    The Department of Environmental Quality denied C&H Hog Farms an operating permit in part because the company did not conduct a study on the flow direction of groundwater or develop an emergency action plan, according to the department's responses to public comments on the permit application. 


    The study and the plan were both recommended by the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, and the department determined they were necessary because of C&H's location in the recreational river's watershed.


    C&H asserts in its appeal that the department never asked for the study or plan. Additionally, C&H contends that the department approved the farm's previous permit under nearly identical conditions, meaning that it previously considered the farm in compliance with the handbook under nearly identical conditions.


    In a filing Thursday, attorneys for C&H argued that the environmental groups, per regulations, can only make arguments based on the aspects of the permit application that the groups specifically commented on and thus cannot participate in C&H's claims on "procedural issues" in the department's permitting process. The filing asked Moulton to deny the groups' motions to intervene.


    C&H has appealed the department's decision based on "procedural issues" and "substantive grounds," the filing reads.


    Moulton ruled that the Ozark Society and Buffalo River Watershed Alliance could intervene under Regulation 8.604, which allows "any person who submitted comments during the public comment period" to petition for intervention, according to his order.


    But Moulton declined to rule on the extent to which the groups can participate in the appeal because the groups had not had time to respond to C&H's arguments.

    Richard Mays, one of the attorneys for the environmental groups, said they have until Monday to file their response to C&H's arguments.


    Mays said that because the department didn't deny the permit over "procedural issues," his clients didn't have the opportunity earlier to comment on those issues. Now that C&H is raising those concerns in its appeal, his clients should be allowed to respond.


    "They claim they've raised procedural issues," Mays said in an interview Tuesday. "That's a very vague term that doesn't have a fixed meaning."


    Mays argued that the department raised substantial issues, not procedural ones.

    Messages left for C&H attorney Bill Waddell were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

    Metro on 02/14/2018


  • 13 Feb 2018 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Comments split on haze rule; utilities back state plan opposed by environmental groups

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: February 12, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline



    Utilities and a consumer group largely favor the state's proposed changes in the way it will implement a federal rule to reduce haze, but environmental groups oppose it, according to comments submitted to the state.


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality received 499 comments -- mostly from individuals -- on the more contested portion of the Regional Haze Rule that utilities anticipate would cost them collectively more than $2 billion and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated would cost less than $500 million.

    The state's plan would require lower-cost controls for reducing sulfur dioxide that reduce emissions less. The state argues that the EPA's plan is not cost-effective, although it did not define "cost-effective."


    Utilities would have three years to comply.


    The positions are a reversal of how the same groups felt about the EPA's proposal to implement the Regional Haze Rule in Arkansas. Utilities and consumer groups largely opposed that plan because of the cost to utilities and the expected trickle down to customer bills. Environmental groups supported the EPA's proposal because of the expected decrease in haze-causing compounds that they said were also detrimental to public health.


    Comments from environmental organizations on the state's proposed plan largely concerned whether the department did what commenters believed it was legally required to do under state and federal air laws.


    Many individual comments were identical messages sent through an automated system that supported more stringent emissions controls on Entergy Arkansas' two largest coal plants, White Bluff near Redfield and Independence near Newark. The comments expressed concern for visibility, ozone pollution and public health.


    The Regional Haze Rule, approved by Congress in 1999, requires states to take measures to improve visibility in national wilderness areas. The wilderness areas targeted by the Arkansas plan are Caney Creek and the Upper Buffalo River in Arkansas and the Hercules-Glades and Mingo areas in Missouri.


    Instead of emissions-reducing scrubbers, the state's plan would ask utilities to begin using lower-sulfur coal to fire the White Bluff plant for a cost of $1,150 per ton of sulfur dioxide reduced. A question to Entergy officials about how much that would cost overall went unanswered Friday.


    The state plan also removes the Independence plant from having to comply with the plan because it is not technically required to comply under Best Available Retrofit Technology analysis because of the later installation date of its boiler.


    The White Bluff and Independence plants, each 1,700 megawatts, are by far the state's largest coal-fired plants and were the largest targets of the haze plans.

    The state's plan did not change the federal plan's requirements for natural-gas plants.

    In their comments, the National Parks Conservation Association, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club argued that the cost for Entergy to comply with the EPA's plan was comparable to other costs approved in other state and federal implementation plans. In contrast, Entergy argued in its comments against requiring scrubbers because other state and federal implementation plans had determined those costs to be excessive.


    A chart made by the environmental groups showed that some plans required higher costs and others required lower costs.


    The environmental groups also noted that the department did not define "cost-effective."


    Entergy and other utility groups contended that the state did not need to conduct any further reasonable progress analysis for meeting progress goals outlined in the Regional Haze Rule at the Independence plant because Arkansas was already meeting its visibility goals for the first planning period.


    The environmental groups posited that the plan did not adequately consider Missouri's visibility improvements and did not supply information on how visibility at Missouri's wilderness areas would be affected.


    They also argued that the state, per the Arkansas Air Pollution Control Act, was required to consider the public health effects of sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide can contribute to ground-level ozone, which can cause respiratory problems at high enough levels.


    Last month, the EPA approved the state's proposed changes to nitrogen oxide emissions reductions, but utilities said they had already installed the low-nitrogen oxide burners the EPA had required at a cost of several million dollars per burner.

    The state's proposal concerns the first Regional Haze planning period, which ends this year. It started in 2008.


    The state submitted a plan to comply in 2012, but it was partially rejected by the EPA, and the state never replaced it. The Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association sued in 2014 to force the creation of a plan, which a federal judge ultimately ordered the EPA to issue.


    The EPA finalized the plan in the fall of 2016, which was challenged in court, and the EPA has allowed the state to redraft its own plan for the 2008-18 period while the bulk of its plan remains under a stay in federal court.

    Metro on 02/12/2018


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