Oklahoma AG appeals poultry waste ruling against injunction

By Chris Rizo | Dec 16, 2008

Drew Edmondson (D)

OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline)-Thirteen poultry companies in Oklahoma should be barred from disposing bird waste in the Illinois River watershed, state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said in court papers this week.

The Democrat filed a 61-page appeal Monday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, asking the judges to allow for a preliminary injunction against the out-of-state-based poultry companies.

Edmondson claims the poultry companies are responsible for the runoff of polluted water from tons of poultry waste that has flowed into the waterways as the result of improper storage. For the alleged damage, he is seeking an undisclosed amount for the state.

The appeal follows a ruling by U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell of the Northern District of Oklahoma, who in September found that the state had not yet "met its burden of proving that bacteria in the waters of the IRW are caused by the application of poultry litter rather than by other sources, including cattle manure and human septic systems."

In his appeal, Edmondson also said the district court judge erred when he found that the testimony of two expert witnesses was unreliable because their work had neither been peer reviewed nor published.

Defendants in the lawsuit are: Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC., George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., Cal-Maine Farms Inc. and Willow Brook Foods Inc.

In an earlier interview with Legal Newsline, the attorney general said the poultry companies risk going broke if they don't settle before the trial, which is scheduled for next September.

"I would expect that the damage model that we create showing what is actually happened in the watershed will be beyond the reach of the companies," Edmondson said. "It's going to be far more significant than the resources that are available even though it's a multibillion dollar industry."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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