Buffalo River 

Notice Again at Issue in Battle Over Arkansas Hog Farm - PNRC

02 Jul 2018 4:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Public Notice Resource Center

Notice Again at Issue in Battle Over 

Arkansas Hog Farm

In December 2012, residents of Newton County, Arkansas were shocked to learn that the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) had approved a permit to operate a hog farm on the banks of Big Creek, a tributary on the Buffalo National River. To learn about the permit application they would have had to visit ADEQ’s website, where notice about it had been published for 30 days that summer. The notice was not published in a local newspaper.

The agency received no comments about the application. It was approved a week after notice was posted on its website. The process was so secretive that even the Buffalo National River staff and the National Park Service didn’t know about it.

Owned and operated by C&H Hog Farms, Inc., the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is home at any given time to as many as 6,500 swine and generates more than 2 million gallons of manure and wastewater per year. Some of the waste is deposited on fields adjacent to Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo River less than six miles away.

There was a huge uproar when citizens learned about the hog farm. The controversy led to the creation of the non-profit Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and spawned an active grassroots movement to protect the local environment. Multiple lawsuits were filed to stop the farm and the state ultimately devoted several years and significant financial resources defending ADEQ’s decision and rule-making process. And a new law was passed by the state legislature requiring newspaper notice for CAFO permits.

In August 2013, former ADEQ Director Teresa Marks told the Arkansas Times, “In retrospect, I wish that we had a public meeting before and explained the (environmental protection) plan,” she said. “I’m not sure it would have changed anything. But I understand the way people feel. They feel like this happened and nobody knew anything about it.”

Marks all but admitted ADEQ’s website notice was insufficient. “It’s definitely time to look at the notice requirements,” she said. “That’s certainly something that has been of great concern. … We are more than willing to revise those.”

Five years later, C&H was required by law to re-submit an application to operate the hog farm. ADEQ again issued a draft approval of the application. But this time the agency published at least one notice of the draft in a local newspaper — the Newton County Times — and received 19,239 comments. (According to ADEQ, 18,422 were “carbon copy comments generated by a national environmental campaign” and 817 were “unique” comments submitted by individuals and organizations.)

After hearing from the public, ADEQ reversed course and denied the permit.

Naturally, C&H wasn’t happy with the ruling and appealed it. In its motion for summary judgment, the company’s attorneys argue that since ADEQ reversed its original ruling it should have put that decision out for public notice and comment before it was finalized, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Karma is clearly alive and well in the state of Arkansas.

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