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[Archived] Big Chicken's resolution fails

| News | January 12, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Senate killed a scenic rivers resolution Wednesday that the attorney general had said would have tied his hands in dealing with the poultry industry.

Several Tulsa-area senators opposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 22 in a nonrecorded vote of 11-19.

Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, said the resolution was needed to force agencies dealing with the environment and water cleanliness to meet with lawmakers and define their responsibilities.

He was challenged on the need for the resolution by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Bixby.

Mazzei asked whether this was really a move by the poultry industry to discover what the attorney general might use as strategy in a threatened lawsuit over water quality.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has been locked in a battle with poultry processors regarding the amount of phosphorus allowable in waterways. He blames the industry for polluting Oklahoma lakes and streams with excess phosphorus from chicken litter.

"I know the attorney general has some concerns about this," Lerblance said, "but all we're doing is following the statutes."

Edmondson said he appreciates the Senate's defeat of the resolution.

"The vote will allow us to focus on negotiations without forcing us to use the limited resources of the Attorney General's Office in another forum," he said.

"I remain hopeful that we can resolve the pollution issue in negotiations."

Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, said the state Agriculture Department has been left out of negotiations with the poultry industry.

John Henry Ward, a poultry lobbyist who sought the resolution, said the Agriculture Department rightfully has jurisdiction.

Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City, said: "I think it's clear that something else is going on here. We've got to allow the attorney general to continue to work on this problem."

Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, who had voted for the resolution in committee, said he changed his mind after conferring with Edmondson.

Mick Hinton (405) 528-2465