Corporate Ag Interests Sue MPCA to Limit Public Comment on Environmental Review of Massive Dairy Expansion

LEWISTON, Minn. — Proposers of an expansion project that would create one of the largest dairy operations in Minnesota are attempting to limit the time the public has to submit comments to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) about the project’s potential environmental risks. A lawsuit has been filed in Ramsey County District Court preventing the comment period for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the Daley Farms dairy expansion from being extended until Nov. 15. Earlier this month, at the request of local residents, the MPCA extended the comment period on the EAW from Oct. 31 until Nov. 15. The lawsuit was filed by the AgriGrowth Council, which represents the state’s largest corporate agriculture interests, along with five commodity groups and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

Daley Farms is proposing increasing the size of its herd near Lewiston from 1,728 to 4,628 cattle. This would double the liquid manure and waste water production of this operation to 46 million gallons a year, and require adding a manure basin the size of three football fields at a depth of 16 feet. The raw liquid waste would sit on top of sensitive karst geology, which is composed of porous limestone that is highly prone to sinkholes and disappearing springs. This geology can allow surface pollution to enter the groundwater in a matter of hours. The dairy expansion would use 92 million gallons of the area’s groundwater annually. The nearby city of Lewiston (pop. 1,506) uses 33.6 million gallons a year. Daley Farms is surrounded by towns plagued with nitrate levels in their drinking water that are near or above the state-mandated maximum allowable nitrate level of 10 mg/L.

At the request of local residents, the MPCA extended the comment period for the Daley Farms EAW from Oct. 31 until Nov. 15. The citizens demanded more time to review the 235-page EAW, as well as an additional 800 pages of permit application materials. The extension was needed in part to accommodate the fact that farmers are in the middle of harvest.

The AgriGrowth Council’s lawsuit seeks to reverse this decision. Neighboring farmers, rural residents and nearby town residents who would be impacted by the massive dairy expansion received no public notice of this legal action.

“Public interest in the proposal is very high and the additional comment time allows for deeper and more meaningful public review,” said Land Stewardship Project organizer Barb Sogn-Frank. “Halting the comment period at this point would dramatically reduce the ability of the public to review and comment on what would be the largest livestock confinement in southeastern Minnesota.”

A hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in Ramsey County District Court in Saint Paul.

Click this link for a copy of the complaint and petition.

Documents related to this lawsuit are available by contacting the Land Stewardship Project’s Barb Sogn-Frank at bsognfrank@landstewardshipproject.org or 612-722-6377.

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