Air lawsuit settlement finalized after latest challenge withdrawn
The terms of the settlement of a lawsuit over implementation of a new law regarding air quality permits for livestock operations were finalized this week as environmentalists failed to follow through on their threat to go to court and block the settlement. However, they indicated they could file lawsuits against the air district at the federal level. The Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) said this week that it should have been involved in negotiations between the San Joaquin Valley Air District and Western United Dairymen and the Alliance of Western Milk Producers. When the lawsuit was filed against the district, the court allowed AIR to file as an intervenor.
The dairy organizations agreed to dismiss their lawsuit after reaching a settlement agreement with the air district last week. Lawyers for the dairy industry and air district met in court Monday to move forward on dismissing the suit. The AIR lawyer objected, saying the settlement was illegal because AIR was not involved in the negotiations. The judge gave AIR until Thursday to show any cause why it should have been part of the negotiations. AIR attorney Brent Newell appeared in court Thursday but withdrew his request and asked Fresno County Judge Wayne Ellison to change the settlement by forcing dairies to use the best possible control measure to reduce pollution. But Ellison said he could not modify and enforce a new agreement. AIR was not a plaintiff or defendant in the lawsuit, Ellison pointed out, so the group did not have to be included in negotiations.
According to the Fresno Bee, Newell said AIR representatives would file lawsuits in federal court if new or expanded dairies were created without permits and the best pollution-reducing technology.
With the settlement in place, the dairy industry and air district are moving on implementing the agreement that calls for a better understanding of dairy air emissions and the means to control them. One key step will be the formation of a scientific advisory group to gain a better understanding of the nature and quantity of air emissions generated by dairies. There is considerable ongoing research that will be considered by the advisory group as it assists the district in determining the best available means to control emissions by new and expanding dairies. It is anticipated that the bulk of that research will be completed by the end of 2004.