East Dublin Dairy EIS argued in court
BENSON -- Attorneys for the East Dublin Dairy, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Swift County Citizens for Responsible Growth argued Wednesday whether the Swift County District Court should require the agency to order an environmenta...
BENSON -- Attorneys for the East Dublin Dairy, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Swift County Citizens for Responsible Growth argued Wednesday whether the Swift County District Court should require the agency to order an environmental impact statement on the proposed 6,660-cow dairy.
The citizens group is seeking a summary judgment to require the environmental impact statement, an in-depth analysis used for major development projects.
Jim Peters, the group's attorney, argued that the MPCA has not taken a "hard look" at the proposed dairy and that the big feedlot has potential for significant environmental impacts, from surface water runoff after manure application, dead animal disposal issues and air quality issues.
"The court's obligation is to look at the entire administrative record and to make its own decision," Peters said.
Judge David L. Mennis presided over the hearing. After the arguments were complete, Mennis told the court he would render a decision as soon as possible, but also noted that he must consider a large amount of information to make that decision.
The dairy is proposed for a 120-acre site in Dublin Township, Swift County, and is a partnership of 20 families, led by the Fehr family of Morris. The dairy would milk 5,280 cows twice a day and also house 820 dry cows and 500 heifers, for a total of 8,890 animal units. The proposal also includes holding manure from the facility in a 19-foot-deep, 52 million-gallon storage basin.
Peters cited two cases where district courts have ordered the Pollution Control Agency to complete environmental impact statements, Hancock Pro Pork in Pope County and the Reiland Dairy in Fillmore County.
"The courts have had to step in because the MPCA wasn't taking a hard look at the feedlots," he said.
Lawrence Pry, assistant attorney general represented the MPCA, told the judge to simply find whether or not the agency adequately completed the environmental assessment worksheet, which is required for a feedlot of more than 1,000 animal units. The worksheet is a screening tool used to determine whether the more in-depth impact statement is required.
"This court simply doesn't have the authority to review the evidence," Pry said. "The court's role is to determine if the agency did its job."
Michael Fluegel, attorney for the dairy, noted that the citizens group was making arguments to prejudice the court because of the size of the proposed project. It is the biggest project in the state, but that has no legal import, he said.
Fluegel noted that his clients worked with the Pollution Control Agency throughout the assessment process and reviewed the engineering on the manure storage basin and secured more acres of cropland closer to the dairy site for manure application.
He noted that the agency staff works with feedlot applicants throughout the process so that the project meets the state standards before the agency's citizen board votes on whether or not an impact statement is needed.
"The staff works through the process, so they have a project that they are satisfied with," he said.