Arkansas fights back in poultry fuss
Perhaps Oklahoma leaders should not be surprised that Arkansas officials have fired a shot across our bow, figuratively speaking. The increasingly rancorous battle over poultry waste does not appear headed toward a speedy resolution.
And that is exactly why Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson went to court recently to try to force poultry companies to take more effective steps to address pollution problems he says are connected to poultry production.
In a sort of legal tit-for-tat, Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe -- who by the way is running for governor -- has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take on the matter. He argues that Oklahoma is trying to impose its water-quality standards on Arkansas, which he claims is a violation of federal law.
Beebe wants permission to sue Oklahoma and argues that an existing 35-year-old agreement should be the vehicle for settling differences between the states over the poultry issue.
Does he not see the irony in his own argument? If a pact that has been in existence for 35 years hasn't been effective in taking care of the matter, then it probably isn't sufficient to handle the problem. Edmondson tried for three years to negotiate acceptable solutions and was unsuccessful. If there were any way short of involving the courts to resolve this problem, surely it would have been identified by now.
At issue is poultry litter that for decades has been applied to the land as fertilizer. Edmondson claims that litter from the thousands of poultry houses in Arkansas and Oklahoma is adversely affecting Oklahoma lakes and rivers. Excess litter can lead to water-quality degradation in affected watersheds.
Beebe said in filing his action: "There are already provisions in place to improve water quality in the Arkansas River Basin, and Oklahoma should respect our progress in addressing these issues instead of trying to force Arkansas farmers and other businesses to abide by Oklahoma law."
Just how long are we supposed to wait for Arkansas to take the steps needed to save Oklahoma assets? Already some of our most popular and precious lakes and rivers are showing signs of serious degradation. Do we have to sit back and allow them to be ruined while Arkansas officials take their time to address the situation?
Beebe is right about one thing: Federal involvement probably will be needed to clear this mess up. In fact, if federal agencies had acted long ago, perhaps this battle would not have escalated to this point.