Washington dairies are asking a federal appeals court to strike down a 7-year-old order that has required Lower Yakima Valley dairies to take extra measures to keep manure from polluting groundwater.

The Washington State Dairy Federation and Cow Palace Dairy owner Adam Dolsen are seeking relief from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Their petition claims the dairies were misled by the Environmental Protection Agency into agreeing to the order in 2013.

The federation’s executive director, Dan Wood, said the order has cost dairies millions of dollars and was based on a study that was not adequately reviewed by scientists outside the EPA.

“The science was skewed and perhaps intentionally so,” he said. “We’re looking for an objective, proper scientific process.”

An EPA spokesman said the agency had no comment on the petition.

The EPA has stood by the study, saying subsequent information has confirmed its findings that dairies were likely the source of unsafe levels of nitrates in nearby household wells.

Based on that conclusion, four dairy companies entered into an agreement with the EPA to control groundwater contamination from manure. The dairies admitted no fault, but the agreement was an alternative to lawsuits. Dairies remain under the order’s “onerous terms,” according to the petition.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and dairy groups pressed the Trump EPA last year to reopen the Obama-era study. They claimed the EPA downgraded the significance of the study and misclassified it, shielding it from a higher standard of peer review.

EPA Regional Director Chris Hladick said there was no reason to do a new review and that{span} actions{/span} {span}taken by the{/span} {span}dairies{/span} {span}had {/span}{span}begun{/span} {span}to{/span} {span}reduce{/span} {span}nitrate{/span} {span}levels {/span}{span}in{/span} {span}groundwater.{/span}

A U.S. Geological Survey chemist and three EPA scientists reviewed the study. A USDA agronomist said he declined to sign off on the final report because the agency provided him with an incomplete preliminary report.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington State Department of Agriculture and others criticized the EPA for jumping to conclusions. They said the study was incomplete and warned against using it to regulate dairies.

Wood said the order set a bad precedent for dairies elsewhere. “Our cohorts around the nation are saying if it happens to us, we’re done,” he said.

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