More hearings set to allow others to testify on Easterday feedlot

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

A state pollution control board will rule by next fall on claims that a new feedlot will increase air pollution.

Neighboring farmers went before the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board July 7-8 in Pasco, Wash., to appeal a state air-quality permit issued to a new 30,000-head cattle feedlot.

Feedlot owner Cody Easterday of Mesa, Wash., declined to comment on the hearing. He told the Capital Press the feedlot is fully operational.

The Five Corners Family Farmers claim the state failed to require the feedlot to comply with current air quality standards, including those regulating ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions, according to a press release from the group. It also claims the state failed to consider the cumulative effects of several concentrated animal feeding operations, dairies and other operations in the area.

State Department of Ecology Communications Manager Jani Gilbert said the permit was the first written for a new feedlot in several years.

"From Ecology's point of view, it is a good, solid, valid permit," Gilbert said.

Some witnesses were not available to testify during the two-day hearing, so another hearing will be set.

The board typically has 90 days to make a decision after the hearing, said Robyn Bryant, administrative manager for the pollution control hearing board office in Lacey, Wash.

Gilbert said it is possible the board's decision could have an impact on the way the department permits other new feedlots, but any speculation is premature until a decision is made.

The air-quality case is similar to the challenges to the Easterday feedlot over stockwatering, in that the ramifications could be felt across the cattle industry, said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association.

"Whether it's cow-calf, a feedlot, a dairy, the impacts could be felt by many," Field said.

In April, Franklin County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge dismissed the Five Corners Family Farmers lawsuit against Easterday, saying a 1945 statute exempting livestock watering from a permit requirement was unambiguous.

Ed Field, executive director of the Washington Cattle Feeders Association, of which Cody Easterday is president, believes the hearing will find the Easterdays went above and beyond state requirements to show how they will manage air quality, showing what is in the feed and how they control the animals' diet.

"They went even further than most, proving to the department they had a very viable plan in place," he said. "They set a new standard and went the extra mile."

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