Ruling favors intervenors in hog-farm permit case

Posted: February 28, 2018 at 3:06 a.m.

The parties intervening in C&H Hog Farms' appeal of its permit denial to operate within the Buffalo National River watershed are not limited to participating only on issues they raised during the public comment period, an administrative law judge has ruled.

The Ozark Society and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance "may participate and argue all issues raised by C&H" in its appeal, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton wrote in his opinion.

Both groups oppose C&H's permit application, which the department denied in January.

C&H has appealed and raised concerns about "procedural issues" related to department Regulation 6, which C&H used to be permitted under. The farm applied for a new permit under Regulation 5 after the department announced it would no longer issue permits under Regulation 6.

Early this month, C&H argued the groups could not comment on any issue they didn't specifically raise in their public comments, per department regulations. Because C&H raised "procedural issues" in its appeal of the department's decision, the groups could not participate in that discussion, the farmers argued.

In his decision, Moulton cited department Regulation 8.613(B)(5), which states that no one other than the applicant or permittee may raise issues at a hearing unless the issues "could not ... with reasonable diligence, have been discovered and presented during the public comment period."

Because Regulation 6 procedural issues were not "contemplated, discussed, analyzed, or otherwise addressed by ADEQ, C&H, or public commenters" during the permitting process, "it would have been impossible for Intervenors" to weigh in on them before, which is what the groups had argued.

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.

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 recommended by the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, and the department determined they were necessary because of the rocky terrain upon which the farm is located.

Metro on 02/28/2018