Just when you thought it was over... An update from the Central Sands

Just in time for another holiday weekend here is the latest in the Richfield CAFO’s attempts to move forward despite our successes.  The DNR is poised to issue a modified WPDES permit (waste spreading) to the dairy without batting an eye or taking into consideration the Judge’s comments in our appeal.  You may recall that Judge Boldt’s decision in the WPDES portion of our appeal discussed our request for an Animal Unit cap, i.e. a cap on the number of animal units (cows) Richfield Dairy can put on its property.  This effectively limits the waste the facility can generate.  Judge Boldt agreed a cap was appropriate, and further said: “The Department should establish a sustainable cap on animal units in conjunction with the revised permit reducing the maximum annual pumping in the companion high-capacity well cases.”   Richfield Dairy originally applied for 6,270 Animal Units (AU) or about 4,550 cows and steers.  Well to us this was pretty clear.  Less water = less animals.  After Judge Boldt’s decision came down, Richfield Dairy still asked for 6,270 Animal Units.  Friends of the Central Sand's legal counsel protested to the DNR that this number was too high, given the reduced 52.5 million gallons per year (MGPY) pumping limit, and argued that a cap of 4,279 AU was appropriate based on the dairy’s own documentation.    Well, the DNR has tentatively decided to modify the WPDES permit and include a cap of 6,270 AU—just what Richfield Dairy asked for.  The notice is available herethe draft permit is here, and the supporting documents are here.  They did not provide strong justification for their decision, so FOCS legal counsel contacted DNR staff directly.   Our legal counsel was told that the DNR didn’t believe that Judge Boldt actually required the AU number to be tied to the pumping limit.  We obviously disagree.  It’s pretty clear from Judge Boldt’s own words that he intended the AU cap to be tied to the pumping limit, that he wanted DNR to attempt this analysis, and that the expectation was that the AU limit would be lower as a result of the pumping limit.  The DNR couldn’t set a random AU cap and let the Dairy determine how to comply with the pumping limit.  

Tell them what you think….

What’s next?  There is a 30-day public notice period on the proposed permit change, which started running on June 17. The public notice period expires on July 16.  We encourage you to send comments to Ms. Casey Jones, DNR Oshkosh Service Center, 625 E. County Road Y, Oshkosh, WI 54901, (920) 303- 5426Casey.Jones@Wisconsin.gov   Let her know what you think of the DNR’s decision to basically do the CAFO’s bidding. 

Finally, note that Richfield Dairy’s WPDES permit expires on Dec. 31, 2016, since these permits only have 5-year terms.  They’ll need to apply for a new one in advance of that deadline, and whatever cap the DNR sets now could change then.  So could all other aspects of the permit.  This is even more reason to make your concerns known now.  We fought the fight.. we won.. so let’s set good precedent for the next permit.

The CAFO to our south…

You may recall that the DNR had required extra ground water monitoring for the New Chester CAFO near Westfield (same owners as the Richfield CAFO).  The purpose was to evaluate actual groundwater levels and see if the dairy’s modeled predictions of drawdown were correct.  Well… the CAFO took the DNR to court arguing that they didn’t have the authority to require this.  The DNR along with Clean Wisconsin prevailed in that case after a hearing before Judge Boldt.  The CAFO has now appealed that decision to circuit court.  The DNR in this case would be represented by the Department of Justice.  The DOJ however has stated that it will not defend the DNR because it feels that the DNR’s position is unsupported.  Really?  It already won the case!  Oh.. it appears that the new DOJ Deputy Attorney General, Andrew Cook, was recently employed by Hamilton Consulting and represented the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) intervening on the side of New Chester CAFO.  Interesting how things happen..

In other news, we’ve heard that the New Chester CAFO is no longer going to be supplying electricity to Brakebush or piping the manure there.  We understand that the manure will be processed to make biofuel or biochemicals.  We don't know if there will be a digester anymore or not, as part of the processing.  The DNR received a request on May 8th to revoke the Air Pollution Control Construction Permit which would have allowed New Chester Clean Energy – Brakebush Brothers to construct a renewable energy production facility.  The DNR has preliminarily determined that the request is approvable (in other words, revoke the permit).

So stay tuned.   We have much more work to do to ensure that all of our work becomes policy and that the DNR is held accountable to the Judge’s ruling in the October 2014 Richfield CAFO decision.

We need your help…

With bills exceeding $300,000 this has been a very expensive battle paid for by people like you.

Donations are our only source of funding.  We still have debt remaining and obviously our work is not yet done.

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Sign up now for the event of the year August 15!

You may have heard about last year’s Farm to Fork event held by our very dear friends Jeanne and Russ at Fresh for Life Organics.  This was simply an amazing event.  Held on their farm under the stars, we were treated to wine and the most exquisite vegetarian meal (Yes, that excellent tasting “beef” really was a veggie dish) you could ever imagined.  So stay tuned for Farm to Fork redux later this summer!  Order your tickets now before they are sold out!

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