Two Washington farm groups will be allowed to weigh in, in a limited fashion, on a lawsuit filed by an environmental group accusing federal and state regulators of being lax in policing agriculture’s water-protection practices.
U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour granted a motion Wednesday by the Washington Farm Bureau and Washington Cattlemen’s Association to submit a 15-page brief regarding possible remedies to a lawsuit filed by Northwest Environmental Advocates.
Coughenour’s decision partially reverses a ruling he made in March. The judge denied the Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association intervenor status, ruling the groups’ interests were identical to the state Department of Ecology’s.
The farm groups this month appealed Coughenour’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court. They also moved to halt any remedy coming from the lawsuit before the circuit court ruled. As agreed to beforehand with the other parties, the farm groups withdrew the motion after Coughenour’s order Wednesday.
The Portland-based environmental group claims that the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should cut off federal clean-water funds until Ecology implements agricultural “best-management practices.” Northwest Environmental alleges that riparian buffers are too small to protect water from agricultural runoff.
The EPA and Ecology have denied the state’s pollution-control plans are inadequate.