TULSA, OK -- The State of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation on Wednesday filed an agreement opposing poultry company assertions that the state lacks standing to pursue its Illinois River pollution case.
According to a news release from the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, the agreement is in response to defendants' standing claims as well as claims that the state should have joined the Cherokee Nation as a party in the lawsuit.
In 2005, the state sued several out-of-state poultry companies for pollution caused by the improper land application and storage of hundreds of thousands of tons of poultry waste.
In the agreement, the Cherokee Nation delegates and assigns to the state "the right to prosecute any of the Nation's claims" against the defendants for their alleged pollution of the watershed.
"The legal claims in the defendants' motion were merely a smokescreen," Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. "Their true intention was to sidetrack the court. The issue is protecting the natural resources of the Illinois River Watershed from poultry company pollution. On that front, we stand united."
"We are happy that the State acknowledges that we have an interest in these resources," said Diane Hammons, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General. "Both the State and the Cherokee Nation are committed to protection of the Illinois River Watershed and the longevity of those resources for our citizens. This agreement represents the Nation's authorization to the State to proceed in the litigation without the Nation entering as a party."
Tyson Foods issued a response to Edmondson's announcement saying they believe Edmondson does not have the authority to reach such an agreement without the approval of the state legislature and the U.S. Department of Interior.
Tyson is one of the defendants in the lawsuit.
In a news release from Tyson, they say the agreement is invalid. In addition, Tyson says "It also fails to resolve the important question we raised in our motion over who owns the water resources that are the focus of this case. We believe this issue must still be addressed by the federal court."
The agreement was signed by Edmondson on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and by Hammons on behalf of the Cherokee Nation.