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The Party of Law and Order

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Republicans always respect the law, right? It’s all about legality. That must be why Oklahoma has preemptively pardoned the state’s entire poultry industry from water pollution laws.

Governor Kevin Stitt has now signed into law a measure that gives poultry farmers/companies “immunity” for polluting Oklahoma waterways.

Senate Bill 1424 says if companies or farmers are following state laws then they can’t be sued, even if their actions caused harm.

The proposal states if chicken companies or farmers follow a nutrient management plan, they’ll be protected from any criminal or civil accountability.

“You’re immune,” said Gov. Stitt.

The proposal does include consequences. It makes the pollution of chicken waste while not following safety guidelines a misdemeanor. It carries a fine no less than $500/day and caps it at $10,000/day.

The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes sent a letter to lawmakers May 27 detailing their opposition of SB1424. The council consists of the Seminole Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee Creek Nation, and Cherokee Nation.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re anti-industry, anti-company, anti-farmers, people trying to make a living in various industries. But what we do want to see is the integrity of our water systems held up and make sure that they are clean and that they are not polluted.

In 2005, then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed the suit against 13 poultry companies and subsidiaries for improper litter disposal.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa ruled in 2023 that Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. and other companies polluted the Illinois River, caused a public nuisance and trespassed by spreading the litter, or manure, on land in eastern Oklahoma, and that it then leached into the river’s watershed.

“You can’t have a business have a permit, doing what they’re supposed to do and then come in and let a frivolous lawsuit take place and somehow put them out of business. That’s un-American. It’s not going to happen in Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt Friday morning. “We had a former Attorney General that sued the chicken industry even though they were following all the rules at the time, saying they should have done something different. Hopefully this will settle this once and for all.”

I am not sure how the state can preempt federal law here; in fact, I am sure they legally cannot, but this is a nice shot into larger issues of nullification. However, I am not a legal expert and could be missing something here. I also appreciated the casual racism of just ignoring the tribes.

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