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Court order stalls Arkansas hog farm permit decision

A judge has further delayed an Arkansas hog farm’s permit application to operate near the Buffalo River watershed.

Newton County Circuit Judge John Putman issued a stay Wednesday on an order issued in August by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. The order had reopened the permit application process for C&H Hog Farms, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The farm is permitted to house about 6,500 hogs on Big Creek.

The commission decided in August that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality erred in issuing a final decision denying the farm’s new operating permit. The commission’s order required environmental regulators to issue a final decision on the farm’s permit application.

Regulators had issued a notice of a draft decision last month that would deny the operating permit to C&H Hog Farms. The draft notice, issued Sept. 17, opened a public comment period on the decision to deny.

C&H had requested the stay on the commission’s order Sept. 6. The judge’s ruling this week stalls regulators from taking action on the application for the time being, according to the hog farm’s attorney.

Putman also ordered another stay on the department’s January permit denial that would’ve prompted the farm to close. The second stay allows the farm to continue operating under its expired permit.

Putman’s ruling means the commission’s permit denial effectively hasn’t been issued, said Chuck Nestrud, one of C&H’s attorneys.

Richard Mays, an attorney for intervening environmental groups, called the farm’s actions a tactic to delay the permitting process until the Arkansas Legislature or another entity can help the owners keep their farm open.

“It’s an unsuitable location for a hog farm, so they’re trying their best to obfuscate and delay and hope that somebody will come to their rescue,” Mays said.

Opponents of the farm have argued that it could pose a pollution risk to the Buffalo National River area.CP

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