Senate rejects pro-poultry resolution
The state Senate chose the wise and proper course Wednesday in defeating a resolution that would have, in effect, provided the poultry industry with an unfair advantage in potential litigation over water pollution.
For several years, Attorney General Drew Edmondson has attempted to negotiate with the poultry industry over chicken litter management. Edmondson and a host of other knowledgeable sources claim that chicken litter applied excessively to the soil leads to downstream water degradation.
The city of Tulsa sued several poultry firms over the same issue and ultimately reached a settlement with the firms. Edmondson has sought similar commitments from poultry companies but a settlement remains elusive.
Earlier in the legislative session, a bill was advanced that would have required the attorney general to get permission from the Legislature or governor before proceeding with a lawsuit such as the one he envisions against poultry companies. The bill ultimately died, but Edmondson believes it delayed negotiations because poultry representatives believed they had a chance to avert a lawsuit.
The resolution defeated Wednesday called for creation of a joint legislative committee that would seek documentation from state agencies about their activities to comply with their statutory duties to enforce the Scenic Rivers Act. On the surface, the measure seemed to simply be a fact-finding exercise. But Edmondson warned that the resolution, backed by the poultry industry, would serve to "provide corporate polluters with free discovery should the poultry issue go to trial."
The resolution was introduced by Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, and Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. Lerblance disagreed with Edmondon's interpretation, and insisted the authors were "not trying to do anything that will give anyone a leg up."
Opponents of the measure noted that Lerblance and other lawmakers already have the ability to get information such as that targeted in the resolution.
Edmondson said that with the resolution defeated, his office can focus anew on the negotiations. "I remain hopeful that we can resolve the pollution issue in negotiations," he said.
Without further interference from the Legislature, perhaps he can get that done.