March 1, 2024


New Oklahoma, US bill shifts responsibility for poultry waste pollution to state




An Oklahoma, US bill that would shift liability for poultry waste pollution from producers to the state passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week after the author removed a provision granting retroactive protection to the industry.


House Bill 4118, by Rep. David Hardin would shield poultry producers who were in compliance with their state-approved nutrient management plans from civil and criminal actions related to pollution. Until amended by Hardin on the floor on February 19, the bill included a clause extending that protection to past incidents.


The bill now goes to the US Senate.


Integrated processing and marketing companies that contract with independent producers to raise the poultry, usually under conditions dictated by the integrators, would be immune from liability as long as they don't use non-compliant contractors.


"If we as the state of Oklahoma are making the rules, and they're following our rules, and they have to do their business by them, we should have to stand behind (the rules)," Hardin said.


Opponents zeroed in on language that would weaken existing law, including the replacement of an explicit prohibition on poultry waste coming into contact with the waters of the state with a requirement to review the nutrient plan if pollution does occur.


Hardin insisted that the management plans would serve the same purpose as the ban. When asked why he sought to remove the prohibition from statute, he said growers who believed they were following the law are being caught up in lawsuits.


Oklahoma's poultry industry is concentrated in the northeastern corner of the state and shares watersheds with Lakes Eucha and Spavinaw, which provide 40% of Tulsa's water, as well as Grand Lake, Lake Hudson, the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller.


In the 1990s, Tulsa sued poultry interests over pollution to the city's water supply and ultimately won. In 2005, Oklahoma filed a similar suit and, in a case not decided until a year ago, prevailed.


- Tulsa World

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