At least one Texas lawmaker has decided it is time to level the playing field between animal agriculture and the environmental groups who try their best to protest, interfere with and fight their very existence in the state.
Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, Texas, has filed two bills in the Texas House of Representatives that seek certain protections for large animal operations called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that must obtain wastewater permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The first bill requires anyone who files a complaint against a CAFO to pay a $30 deposit to the TCEQ. If the complaint is discovered to be frivolous, or meant to harass a livestock operation, that $30 would be deposited in the state’s general revenue fund. The second bill, affects protests that occur when producers seek to renew their permits, or amend a permit to allow for more cattle. Under Miller’s proposal, if the protest develops into a contested case hearing before an administrative judge, and the permit is granted, the person or group filing the protest would have to pay the legal fees for the producer.
The bills, say Miller, are not designed to hinder enforcement of pollution laws as they do not alter the TCEQ’s ability to shut down a livestock operation that is not in compliance with those laws. They are however designed to reduce the amount of frivolous complaints that occur and to reduce the cost of repeated unnecessary investigations by the state when a series of complaints are filed to harass a livestock producer.
Critics of the bills say they would discourage citizens from reporting pollution and from becoming involved in the public process of permitting. Critics include Linda Ethridge, the mayor of the city of Waco, the city’s two state House Members and several environmental groups.