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E-M:/ Response from Sierra Club Attorney

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>


By now, I imagine Enviromich readers may be growing weary of the debate
between the attorneys for River Ridge, White Acres and Ed Hanenburg, and
the Sierra Club.  To those of you who feel this way, we apologize for yet
one more posting.  However, to finally put this matter to bed, Ken
Vermeulen and I both thought it would be useful to review some of the
points about which we are both in agreement.

First, the Sierra Club wishes to express its appreciation to Mr. Hanenburg
for making substantial improvements at his facilities aimed at preventing
future discharges of manure to Michigan waterways.  We genuinely believe
that Mr. Hanenburg wants to operate his facilities in a manner that is
protective of the environment and that he has taken very significant steps
toward that end. Mr. Hanenburg could have chosen to continue litigating
with the Sierra Club, but he chose instead to improve his facilities and
make peace.  While that decision may be motivated partly by business
considerations, we honestly believe that Mr. Hanenburg genuinely desires to
operate his facilities in a manner that is protective of Michigan's

Second, when the Sierra Club first embarked on its legal campaign to fight
pollution from Michigan CAFOs, one of our principal
concerns was that Mr. Hanenburg did not have a Clean Water Act permit for
his facilities.  Indeed, the MDEQ was refusing at the time to require CAFOs
to obtain permits, which are the primary means by which governmental
regulators and citizens ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Accordingly, the Sierra Club's principal objective was to force the MDEQ to
agree to adopt a Clean Water Act permit for CAFOs and to require CAFOs,
such as the River Ridge and White Acres facilities, to obtain permit
coverage.  Mr. Hanenburg was one of the first CAFO owners to apply for a
Clean Water Act permit.  The settlement agreement requires Mr. Hanenburg to
reapply for a permit, if necessary, and to continue to make good faith
efforts to obtain permit coverage.  We appreciate that Mr. Hanenburg has
worked cooperatively with the Sierra Club on this important issue, and it
is in part for this reason that the Sierra Club was pleased to reach a
settlement with him.

Third, the improvements that Mr. Hanenburg is making to his facilities
in part, voluntary efforts made by Mr. Hanenburg to obtain certification
under the
Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), and in part,
the result
of MDEQ and EPA enforcement orders.  After the Sierra
Club announced its intent to sue, both MDEQ and EPA commenced
enforcement actions against River Ridge.  Both MAEAP certification and the
enforcement actions required River Ridge to develop a Comprehensive
Management Plan (CNMP).   The CNMP process, in turn, identified certain
that were needed in the way these facilities were operated.  In addition to
the changes required
by the CNMP, Mr. Hanenburg also made additional, voluntary improvements,
to further protect against unintended discharges from the farms.  River
Ridge received MAEAP certification drom the Michigan Department of
Agriculture on April 24, 2002.    When the Sierra Club learned about the
facility improvements Mr. Hanenburg had made,
we were receptive to resolving the litigation through a settlement.  As Ken
Vermeulen acknowledges, the Sierra Club was largely responsible for the
EPA's and MDEQ's involvement in this matter.  The settlement includes terms
aimed at ensuring that Mr. Hanenburg will follow through on his
commitments, but as Ken has correctly noted, the improvements made to date
were the result of Mr. Hanenburg's MAEAP certification efforts and the
enforcement actions, not the Sierra Club's lawsuit or settlement.

In sum, the Sierra Club is pleased with the improvements that Mr. Hanenburg
is making to his facilities and we commend him for taking these important
steps to help safeguard Michigan's environment.

Aaron Isherwood
Staff Attorney
Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
85 Second Street, 2d Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105-3441
Phone: (415) 977-5680
Fax: (415) 977-5793

Alex J. Sagady & Associates  http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf

Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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