For Release: Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Contact: Beth Rooney, 918-906-6762, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma Sued for its Oversight of Commercial Chicken Operations
The State of Oklahoma is in court – again – regarding the recent explosion in commercial poultry houses in Northeast Oklahoma. Since 2017, the area has seen hundreds of new chicken houses pop up, seemingly overnight and without any warning, with most servicing Simmons’ new processing plant in Gentry, Arkansas. This marks the latest for Oklahoma in a saga that stretches back decades regarding concentrated poultry houses.
The Spring Creek Coalition filed suit today, arguing that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (ODAFF) has fallen short in its oversight obligations for these new chicken houses. The Coalition alleges that ODAFF failed to undertake the necessary environmental review of the poultry houses when issuing permits for the facilities. “The agency has simply ignored its clear responsibilities under state law,” said Beth Rooney, President of the Coalition, regarding ODAFF’s permitting oversight. Without these environmental safeguards in place, Rooney says she is concerned these chicken houses will pollute the surrounding environment – pollution which, she says, Spring Creek cannot handle. “Oklahoma has an exceptional natural resource in Spring Creek, which is highly valued by Coalition members and local residents. It just cannot be a dumping ground for these chicken houses without forever compromising it for future generations,” continued Rooney.
Recent years have brought a dramatic rise in the number and size of commercial chicken operations in Northeast Oklahoma, including within the Spring Creek watershed, something which ODAFF has publicly admitted it was not prepared to handle, and which the Coalition contends the agency has failed to account for.
Additionally, according to the filings, ODAFF has violated Coalition members’ rights by failing to provide necessary due process in its ongoing permitting decisions. Rooney further explained, “everyone agrees that ODAFF didn’t provide the public any notice or any opportunity to be informed or involved in this process. Apparently, the agency finds that acceptable. Respectfully, I do not.”
When asked what the Coalition seeks to accomplish with this litigation, Rooney responded, “we are committed to protecting Spring Creek, and it is past time for ODAFF to be as well.” Coalition Vice President Bill Chambers had similar sentiments. “This is one of the last things I think any of us wanted to do. But, based upon the last several years, it seems that ODAFF will not change unless we make them.”
Both Rooney and Chambers explained that this is not an isolated situation but, rather, is representative of broader mishandling by ODAFF of its responsibilities, which they want to see change. “While this lawsuit is about Spring Creek, what happens here impacts everyone downstream,” said Chambers, “including those who live in Tulsa, and I’m one of them. All of us need to be concerned about where we are getting our water from and what’s in it.” He encourages anyone interested to “get involved, reach out, inform yourself.”
Spring Creek is an Ozark stream located in Delaware, Cherokee, and Mayes counties in northeastern Oklahoma. The watershed is largely within private ownership. Spring Creek Coalition is a local not-for-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation of the Spring Creek watershed. For additional information, contact Beth Rooney, President, at email@example.com. Read a sample filing at: https://www.springcreekok.org/
Note: STIR is a member of the Spring Creek Coalition.
------------------------------------------------------------------------- JUST HOW MUCH POULTRY MANURE IS THERE IN EASTERN OKLAHOMA AND WHERE DOES IT GO? Photo by The Frontier The Frontier: State’s poultry waste data falls short
FOR THE FRONTIER KELLY BOSTIAN, CONSERVATION COALITION OF OKLAHOMA FOUNDATION Feb 18, 2021
After four years of annual reports the general public no longer has access to a detailed accounting of how nearly 200,000 tons of waste produced by Oklahoma’s Poultry Feeding Operations is exported or applied on state lands, including sensitive watersheds. https://www.tahlequahdailypress.com/news/the-frontier-state-s-poultry-waste-data-falls-short/article_b757c8de-7140-11eb-8a61-63e090f05c3f.html
Note: STIR is a member of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation
Save the Illinois River, Inc.