Washington rancher going to State Supreme Court against Department of Ecology

Posted on November 3, 2012

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A new case in the Washington state supreme court could have far-reaching impacts for ranchers.

Washington rancher Joe Lemire is battling the state Department of Ecology over orders that he take preventative measures to avoid pollution in a creek crossing through land where his 29 cattle pasture.

“The record is absolutely absent of any direct evidence that Mr. Lemire’s modest herd actually polluted Pataha Creek,” the Capital Press quoted Columbia County Superior Court Judge William D. Acey as saying when he dismissed the board’s ruling.

The DOE appealed the decision, and it passed the courts of appeal to go directly to the state supreme court.

Northwest Public Radio describes the issue at stake for both sides:

Both parties say this case will have statewide, possibly nationwide, implications. Spokane Riverkeeper’s Bart Mihailovich says it would help close a gap in the Clean Water Act and reinforce Washington’s ability to monitor the rainwater runoff, also known as nonpoint source pollution.

…For ranchers like Joe Lemire, it’s all about a way of life: the value of property and business. Because he fought the state’s order, Lemire would now have to build the fence without the government’s financial assistance. He estimates that would cost $37,000. Gaps to get his cattle through the fence would add to that total. Lemire says the costs are too high.

The question that matters to ranchers is: how much can the state dictate pollution control from agriculture?

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Posted in: Politics, Washington