A hearing set for Wednesday in Newton County Circuit Court ordering officials from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to appear and show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court has been canceled.
An order issued by Newton County Circuit Judge John Putman last month is the latest development following the state’s effort to deny C&H Hog Farms a permit for disposal of liquid hog waste.
Last week, records show the court file in the case did not reflect summonses having been issued for the ADEQ officials, leading to the cancellation of Wednesday’s hearing. The officials must be served with legal process in order for the hearing to proceed. The two-page document indicates the order can be reissued at the request of C&H.
In January 2018, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied C&H a permit to operate. Based on there having been no public notice of the denial, C&H appealed the decision to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. APC&E determines the environmental policy for the state, and ADEQ implements the policies.
The state’s Pollution Control and Ecology Commission remanded the denial back to ADEQ, but C&H appealed that decision. Judge Putman issued a stay of ADEQ in January 2018, saying his court gained jurisdiction when C&H appealed.
In September, ADEQ issued a public notice of a draft decision that would deny a permit for the large hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed. The notice opened a public comment period.
Then in October on the heels of two public hearings regarding the proposed draft decision to deny a Regulation 5 permit application for C&H, Judge Putman issued an order allowing the hog feeding operation to continue despite the state’s intent to deny a permit for its operation.
The order issued two stays, one on ADEQ’s permit denial to prompt C&H’s closure, and the other on Pollution Control and Ecology’s decision to send the permit application back to ADEQ to be reopened under a new draft decision.
In November 2018, C&H Hog Farms responded to the state’s official denial of a new permit by asking the Newton County Circuit Court to hold ADEQ in contempt of court. A hearing followed in December in Baxter County Circuit Court.
Three days later, Judge Putman denied APC&E’s motion to dismiss the appeal, allowing C&H to move forward in the appeal of the denied permit. As part of Putman’s ruling, his stays issued in October remained in place.
In addition, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club, Gordon Watkins and Marti Olesen filed a motion to intervene in the suit and supported PCE’s motion to dismiss.
In Judge Putman’s December order he noted C&H has filed a motion to show cause alleging ADEQ should be held in contempt of court. C&H alleges on Nov. 19th, with knowledge of Judge Putman’s order Oct. 17th allowing operation to continue, ADEQ denied a permit for the hog farm citing pig waste might be contaminating the nearby Buffalo River.
ADEQ’s actions in spite of Judge Putman’s decision to allow C&H to continue operating led to the order in December for the contempt hearing directing the agency’s director and associate director appear in Newton County Circuit Court to show why they should not be held in contempt of court.