Arkansas-based chicken producers claim Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is playing favorites in his long-running pollution lawsuit against them.
Edmondson accuses the 14 producers, all based in northwest Arkansas, of polluting the scenic waterways of northeastern Oklahoma with solid and liquid chicken waste. The producers include Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and Simmons Foods in.
The poultry producers filed a motion in U.S. District Court this week claiming that a contract drawn up between Edmondson and three law firms in the suit violates the Oklahoma and U.S. Constitution.
The 32-page motion says the Attorney General signed a contingency-fee contract with the three law firms that could award them one third of any amount recovered from the producers in the case. It accuses Edmondson of trying to make his favorite attorneys wealthy.
The motion also seeks to either have the case against the producers dismissed altogether or at least to have the law firms booted from representing the state.
Edmondson’s office called the producers’ motion “meritless.” A spokesman said the contract with the lawyers is constitutional because the Attorney General, not the private law firms, is controlling the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Edmondson played hardball this week with a Democratic state senator, whose law firm represents Tyson Foods, for supporting an animal-waste bill considered friendly to animal producers. Sen. Sean Burrage voted in favor of a bill which declares animal waste a “non-hazardous” substance.
But after Edmondson criticized the legislation for hampering his lawsuit against the poultry companies, Burrage declared that he would abstain from future votes on the bill.
Edmondson claims Arkansas chicken-production waste has rendered one lake in northeastern Oklahoma 70 percent oxygen-dead and that phosphorous waste dumped in the watershed equals that of 10.7 million people.