U.S. Water News Online
LITTLE ROCK -- The U.S. Supreme Court has squelched
Arkansas' attempt to sue Oklahoma in a dispute over chicken litter
and water pollution, turning away the request without comment.
Arkansas petitioned the court last year for permission to sue its
neighbor state under the Arkansas River Basin Compact. Beebe said an
Oklahoma lawsuit in federal court in Tulsa would hurt his state's $2
billion poultry industry. He argued that the disagreement was "a
state sovereignty issue."
"The Supreme Court's decision is disappointing, but not
surprising," Beebe said. "It is very rare for the United States
Supreme Court to take original jurisdiction over controversies
between two states, but we felt the threat to Arkansas state
sovereignty and to our citizens warranted the effort to face the odds
and ask for the court's intervention."
Attorney general spokesman Matt DeCample said Beebe and staff
lawyers would decide what their next step will be.
Oklahoma filed the lawsuit last June, after four years of failed
negotiations, alleging that Arkansas poultry companies were legally
responsible for pollution of the Illinois River watershed. Oklahoma's
lawsuit argues that state and federal laws are being violated by
improper disposal of poultry waste.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson praised the court's
decision. He said it stops a delaying tactic on behalf of Arkansas
and the state's poultry companies.
"I appreciate the court for recognizing that this ploy was without
merit and dismissing it outright," Edmondson said. "The companies'
legal, political and public relations tricks will neither distract
nor deter us."
Beebe repeated his claim that Oklahoma is trying to impose its
laws on another state.
"Oklahoma's lawsuit makes this issue less about the environment,
and more about money," Beebe said. "It threatens to slow or stop the
progress already made by both states toward improving water quality
through cooperative efforts."
In its filings, Oklahoma has said Arkansas' proposed lawsuit "is
nothing more than an attempt by Arkansas to use its status as a state
to shield private companies from being held liable for their
intentional pollution of Oklahoma's natural resources.
"Oklahoma's lawsuit is not a dispute with the State of Arkansas,
despite Arkansas' repeated assertions to the contrary. Oklahoma has
not sued Arkansas and Oklahoma's lawsuit does not challenge the
adequacy of Arkansas laws."
The lawsuit named as defendants Cargill Inc. of Minneapolis;
Cobb-Vantress Inc. and Simmons Foods, both of Siloam Springs;
George's Inc. of Springdale; Peterson Farms Inc. of Decatur; Tyson
Foods Inc. of Springdale; Willow Brook Foods of Springfield, Mo.; and
Cal-Maine Foods Inc. of Jackson, Miss.
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