Yesterday, Alan and Kristin Hudson plus the nation's livestock and poultry industry received a very expensive "Christmas package" more than three years in the delivery. Senior U.S. District Court Judge William Nickerson in Baltimore, Md., ruled against Waterkeeper Alliance's lawsuit against Hudson Farms and Perdue Farms.
The bottom line of Nickerson's 50-page ruling was that Waterkeeper Alliance and its party of environmental plaintiffs "has not shown, by a preponderance of evidence, that the poultry operation on the Hudson Farm has discharged pollutants into the waters of the United States."
The high-profile case, initially filed by Waterkeeper Alliance on behalf of the Assateague Coastal Trust, charged that poultry litter runoff from the Hudson's poultry facility contracted Perdue Farms, Inc., polluted a Chesapeake Bay tributary. That was not confirmed by Maryland environmental officials. In fact, Maryland Department of the Environment cleared the farm of any wrong doing in 2010.
Mid-stream in the lawsuit, University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic took over the case on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance. The suit also brought strong criticism Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, plus his support of the Hudsons.
Judge Nickerson affirmed that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling
the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. Then he added, "When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so
responsibly and effectively."
In his 50-page ruling Judge Nickerson stated, "When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The Court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation."
"Judge Nickerson's ruling today reinforced what the Maryland Department of the Environment concluded three years ago," says Lee Richardson, president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau and a SaveFarmFamilies.org member. "Alan and Kristin Hudson have not done anything wrong and are not guilty of violating the Clean Water Act.
"The Hudsons were unjustly accused in a witch hunt by the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Waterkeeper Alliance and their agenda against modern agriculture. If the Waterkeepers had been successful," adds Richardson, "it would have been a travesty."
Waterkeeper contended in their suit that the Hudsons operated a "factory farm." After the suit was filed, the plaintiffs added claims that aeration fan dust and litter tracked outside one of two chicken houses constituted a pollution threat.
Notably, Judge Nickerson's decision also referred to their farm as a factory farm. Nickerson has yet to rule on whether the Hudsons and Perdue Farms will be awarded legal costs. And, there's no word yet on whether Waterkeeper Alliance will appeal the case.
For more background on this case, click on these American Agriculturist website articles:Waterkeepers_Legal_Assault and Hudson_Perdue_Trial_Reset