Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson says Arkansas AG Mike Beebe’s action shows poultry industry's clout

Thursday, November 3rd 2005, 9:52 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson on Thursday said a Supreme Court petition filed by Arkansas over the Illinois River pollution issue amounts to a poultry industry attempt at political misdirection.

"This is about the poultry industry's control of Arkansas government," Edmondson said. "Why else would the attorney general drag his state into a lawsuit on behalf of corporate polluters?"

He responded to Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe's complaint that Oklahoma is trying to impose water quality standards in Arkansas that could harm the state's $2 billion poultry industry.

Beebe challenged Edmondson on the issue of enforcing Oklahoma water quality regulations behind the state's borders.

In June, Edmondson filed a federal lawsuit against several out-of-state poultry companies over pollution of the Illinois River watershed in northeastern Oklahoma. He alleges the pollution was caused by the over application of poultry litter.

Edmondson said a 1992 Supreme Court ruling reaffirmed the court's consistent position that water quality standards of a downstream state can be enforced upon an upstream state.

"You can't stand on the Arkansas side of the border, dump toxins into the river and wash your hands of the problem," he said. "The state of Arkansas cannot license pollution in a neighboring state."

"Nowhere in Beebe's suit does he claim Arkansas is exempt from federal pollution laws, despite the fact that Oklahoma's lawsuit against the poultry companies includes allegations of federal violations," the Oklahoma official said.

Arkansas asked justices for permission to sue Oklahoma and argued the two states should resolve their differences through the Arkansas River Basin Compact.

Edmondson said that compact specifically says states should use all federal and state water pollution laws to address water quality issues.

"Prior to this date, neither Attorney General Beebe nor Gov. (Mike) Huckabee have requested the Arkansas River Basin Compact be utilized to fix this problem," he said.

Miles Tolbert, Gov. Brad Henry's secretary of the environment, said the it is not practicable to use the commission to resolve the issue because of its makeup.

Tolbert said the 35-year-old panel has three members from Arkansas and three from Oklahoma, plus a nonvoting federal member. He said it takes a majority of member from both states to take any action.

Edmondson said Beebe's action was a sign of poultry companies' "desperation to stop this case from going to trial. It is not their first campaign of misdirection and it won't be their last."

"I know Mike Beebe and I don't think he would have done this as attorney general," Edmondson said. "I think he's doing this as a candidate for governor."

Beebe, a Democrat, has announced his intention to run for Arkansas governor next year.