State Lawmaker Cuts Deal with EPA

Posted at 4:43 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 19:50:08-04

State Rep.  Andy Holt faces new environmental problems on his Weakley County farm.

Inspectors say the farm is still not in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act because of two lagoons that hold large amounts of water contaminated with hog manure.

On Wednesday, the Dresden Republican sent out a news release claiming the EPA had "ended their investigation" of him and his farming operations.

In fact, the EPA has demanded that Holt properly close the lagoons on his farm.

If he does, the EPA will drop all proposed fines against him.

If he does not, Holt could face more penalties.

Inspectors found the violations in August of last year -- months after Holt shut down his hog farm.

Inspectors noted that Lagoon No. 1 "contained a significant amount of liquid and that Lagoon No. 2 had less than two feet of available freeboard."

According to documents, "the EPA further alleges that Respondents' failure to timely and properly close and/or maintain the lagoons constitutes a continuous violation in that there is a reasonable likelihood of future unauthorized discharge."

Those lagoons are what got Holt in trouble with the EPA in the first place.

Last summer, the EPA proposed a $177,500 fine against Holt for discharges from the lagoons that occurred in 2011 and 2013.

Holt pumped 800,000 gallons of manure contaminated waste out of the lagoons.

He claimed he had to after heavy rainfalls, and he blasted the EPA for over-regulation.

"The EPA is an entity that has become very politicized much like the IRS," Holt told NewsChannel 5 Investigates last year.

But court documents show the EPA agreed to drop the proposed fine against Holt -- if he properly cleaned up the lagoons on his farm.

He has 18 months "to remove all manure, agricultural waste and contaminated soil from the lagoons."

If he does not, the EPA could seek to re-instate the fine.

It is a slightly different result than what Holt claimed in a news release. Here is what he sent out Wednesday:

NASHVILLE, March 30, 2016-The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ended their investigation into State Rep. Andy Holt’s family farm and subsequently dropped their complaint.

"This has been an interesting process," said Holt. "I’m thankful for those that have stood by my family and me over the past several months."

Last summer, the EPA filed a complaint against Holt’s family farm for discharging lagoon waste. A timely answer was filed by Holt, and there were motions to amend both the complaint & the answer. The complaint was referred to an administrative judge for an alternative dispute resolution process.

On March 24, 2016, the EPA filed a motion to withdraw their complaint against Holt. The motion was not opposed by Holt and on March 25, 2016, the administrative law judge granted the motion and dismissed the action.

"I suppose what I find most interesting about this whole situation is how the media took it upon themselves to play jury and executioner," continued Holt. "Multiple outlets made claims that the EPA had fined me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Obviously, none of that is true."

In fact, Holt must send regular updates to the EPA about his progress cleaning-up the lagoons.

A spokesman for the EPA said the agency just wants the mess cleaned up.

The agency thought a large fine might prevent or delay that from happening.