WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2014 -- The EPA has decided not to appeal a federal ruling in favor of West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt in a Clean Water Act (CWA) case.

The case began in 2011 when EPA said a review of Alt’s poultry operation determined that when it rained, manure and other pollutants were discharging into a nearby creek that flowed into the Potomac River.

EPA ordered Alt to obtain a CWA permit and said the law’s exemption for “agricultural storm water discharges” did not apply to farms classified as “concentrated animal feeding operations,” or CAFOs.

Alt brought a lawsuit against EPA’s determination, and in October 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled in her favor, saying that stormwater from Alt’s farmyard is exempt from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the West Virginia Farm Bureau had intervened as co-plaintiffs with Alt. EPA, now joined by the Center for Food Safety, Water Watch, Potomac River Keeper, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and the Waterkeeper Alliance, appealed the decision. On Sept. 19, EPA announced it would not go forward with its appeal.

“Although EPA thinks that the district court decision is wrong, we also think that it is time to stop spending resources on litigation about this CAFO,” EPA said in a blog posting. “EPA is not going to appeal this decision; our resources are better spent remedying more serious, ongoing pollution across the country.”

According to AFBF, EPA’s voluntary dismissal of its appeal signals the agency’s desire to avoid a likely loss in the appellate court. However, the appeal could still go forward if any of the five environmental groups that intervened in support of EPA decide to go forward without the government.

“EPA knows its effort to regulate perfectly well-run farms cannot withstand legal scrutiny, and the agency doesn’t quite know how to deal with that,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a news release. “Apparently, the agency would rather move on and continue pursuing its regulatory agenda farm-to-farm, but not defend it in court.”


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