US Supreme Court rejects Arkansas attempt to sue Oklahoma

Tuesday, February 21st 2006, 1:28 pm
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday 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's office had no immediate comment on the Supreme Court's decision.

Tuesday, 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.