The Dairy Business Association announced Thursday that it has reached a settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in its lawsuit that alleged the DNR does not have the legal authority to require concentrated animal feeding operations to obtain a wastewater discharge permit unless the CAFO actually discharges wastewater into navigable waters.
The DBA dropped that allegation, while the DNR agreed that vegetation patches are valid pollution control-systems and to stop regulating calf hutches.
The agreement says the state agency will enforce only those standards and requirements for feed storage leachate or runoff management that are explicitly permitted by Wisconsin law, and not to consider calf hutch lots to be included in the definition of a “reviewable facility or system,” which requires an independent engineering plan and specification review and approval.
The lawsuit filed July 27 in Brown County Circuit Court said the DNR did not follow the rulemaking procedures defined by law when it drafted new guidelines for feed storage leachate and calf hutch lots.
The settlement was signed by new DNR Secretary Daniel Meyer and DBA Executive Director Timothy Trotter, and under its terms the DBA filed a notice of voluntary dismissal with Judge Thomas Walsh on Wednesday.
According to the Associated Press, “DNR spokesman James Dick said the settlement doesn’t change any current environmental protections. Pollution that makes it through the vegetation patches into navigable waters will still be regulated under state and federal law and comply with state water quality and groundwater standards, he said. The settlement also reaffirms the DNR has the authority to regulate concentrated feeding operations, he said.
“‘The DNR feels the settlement is an efficient and balanced resolution of (a) complicated case,’ he said.”
For its part the DBA declared the settlement a victory for farmers.
“Farmers’ investments will be protected by this victory,” DBA President Mike North said. “Current practices will continue where they are working. A farm-specific approach will save farmers time and money. And we will have better and longer-lasting environmental outcomes.”
All environmental safeguards for water quality remain in place, and existing standards found in state and federal law are not changed by this settlement, North said.
“This lawsuit was never about rolling back regulations,” he said. “It was about creating regulations according to a legally prescribed process.”
Several environmental organizations filed a joint motion earlier this month in an effort to intervene in the lawsuit, saying the DNR has “clear authority under existing state law to use objective, science-based standards to protect the health of people and our environment from agricultural pollution.”
A Nov. 6 hearing to consider the organizations’ request is now canceled.