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State Lawmaker Continues Battle With EPA

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 14:17:22-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A state lawmaker under investigation by the EPA has been urging the state to sue the agency.

Representative Andy Holt (R) Dresden, has been facing possible fines for pollution from his hog farm, but he has been among sixty state lawmakers who asked the attorney general to challenge the agency.

The letter from Holt and the other lawmakers has been seeking to block an EPA Clean Water Act rule that goes into effect next month.

Holt has been co-chair of the Agriculture Committee.

In April the EPA demanded that Holt schedule a meeting in which he or his attorneys explain why the EPA should not take formal civil action against him.

The EPA listed three different times in which Holt's Weakly County hog farm discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons from a lagoon full of hog manure into a nearby creek.

Pictures from a state investigation showed what one inspector called "serious violations."

In an interview earlier this year - Holt blasted the EPA and said he is now out of the hog business in part because of over regulation.

"The US EPA is an entity that I think has become very much politicized like the IRS," Holt said earlier this year.

On his website this week Holt said "The unconstitutional federal agency is out of control" and accused the EPA of targeting farmers.

Attorneys with the Southern Environmental Law Center think Holt could potentially benefit if the EPA rule were blocked.

The new rule clarified the Clean Water Act and how smaller streams and creeks should be protected from pollution.

"The creek that Mr. Holt dumped hog waste into eventually ends up in the Mississippi River," Attorney Beth Alexander said.

Holt has said it should be up to state's to regulate farmers like him.

But the state never fined Holt despite the fact he operated for years without the proper permit and one inspector found "serious violations" on his property.

"EPA has taken initiative to look into the pollution that Mr. Holt's farm causes where as the state of Tennessee declined to take any action against him," Alexander said.

In a statement this week Holt said the EPA is "terrorizing small businesses." Holt did not mention fines as part of the regulatory process in his interview earlier this year.

"Personally I think regulation should be learning opportunities. Each one of those should be a learning opportunity to do better," Holt said.

The state attorney general said it is reviewing the letter it received from Holt and the other lawmakers but has made no decision about whether to sue the EPA.