Scappoose farmer, convicted for pollution, files civil rights lawsuit
William Holdner, 86, argues state overstepped its authority to regulate animal feedlots
An 86-year-old Scappoose farmer convicted earlier this year on felony and misdemeanor water pollution charges filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal district court June 28 alleging state agriculture and justice agencies unfairly targeted him after he argued the state was not vested with federal authority to regulate his cattle farms.
Attorneys for William Holdner filed a 24-page complaint in U.S. District Court in downtown Portland that claims, among other allegations, Oregon had never received federal approval to administer the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permitting system for confined animal feedlots, called CAFOs.
The complaint asserts the Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality overstepped their authority to regulate CAFOs and in doing so unfairly singled out Holdner, who operates eight cattle farms in Columbia County, including a 102-acre farm on Dutch Canyon Road near Scappoose.
That farm became the focus of an extensive legal battle between Holdner and state agencies following an ODA employees account in 2007 of perceived water pollution violations. Stemming from a subsequent investigation, Holdner was convicted last February on two felony counts that pollutants discharged from the farm.
In particular, he was found to have committed felony pollution by allowing cattle wastes to discharge to Mud and South Scappoose creeks, both tributaries of the Columbia River. He was sentenced to pay $300,000 in fines, dispossess himself of his cattle and cattle operation assets and serve five days in jail. The misdemeanor charges were tied to Holdners refusal to obtain a CAFO permit, which he claims the state did not have authority to require of him.
Holdner, who represented himself during the trial, maintained the state had never satisfied federal requirements to assert itself as the regulating agent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the purpose of enforcing the NPDES program, claims that are echoed in the federal lawsuit. CAFOs, specifically, fall under the NPDES permitting system in the event such operations actually discharge pollutants.
My contention was that [the Oregon Department of Agriculture] didnt have authority to do it, Holdner said Monday.
A call placed to the ODA Director Katy Coba regarding the lawsuit and its claims was not returned as of press time Tuesday.
Wieselman Law Group, a Portland law firm, filed the complaint on Holdners behalf. Holdner is seeking an injunction against the state from exercising its authority, regulation and control over waters of the nation and state, a stay on the earlier sentences against him and plaintiffs costs and disbursements.