by David Ramsey
Officials from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality met today with representatives of the Ozark Society, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club, and the National Parks Conservation Association. The conservation groups have raised complaints about the adequacy of the permit granted to C&H Hog Farm for a hog feeding operation near Big Creek, which flows six miles away into the Buffalo National River. These groups were also part of a coalition that sent a letter of demand to the feds yesterday; a federal lawsuit may be forthcoming.
Hank Bates, a Little Rock lawyer acting as co-counsel for the coalition, asked for the meeting with ADEQ. "We did not go in to the meeting with any specific agenda," he said. "It was really just a chance to sit down and talk about the issues in a very broad sense. We had a free-flowing discussion."
While they "have a fundamental disagreement on the adequacy of the permit application," Bates said that they tried to find "areas we can find common ground on in terms of moving forward both in terms of this specific operation and the future." Bates wasn't willing to go in to much detail but said that the meeting was a success in terms of opening up dialogue.
I asked whether litigation against the state was possible. Bates said "it's an option we're looking at."
The meeting was closed to the public and the media.