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DeCoster Farms Enforcement History

(June 15, 2000)

State of Iowa lawsuits by the Attorney General in matters referred by the Environmental Protection Commission:

1. State of Iowa, ex rel. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, vs. Austin J. DeCoster d/b/a DeCoster Farms of Iowa, Wright County Law No. 20862-0196, filed 1/23/96.

Trial held 1/28-2/6/97; closing arguments 2/11; final briefs 2/21/97.

Ruling on 3/5/97 assessed $59,000 civil penalty for illegal discharge (and water quality violation) and improper land disposal (Finishing Unit #3) (referred violations), illegal use of basin (Finishing Unit #9), and freeboard violations (Finishing Unit #2 and Finishing Unit #3).

Appeal by defendant to Supreme Court was argued 5/27/99.

Supreme Court affirmed 7/8/99.

[Constitutes one "strike" toward "habitual violator" and one "strike" toward "chronic violator" status. See Endnote, below.]

2. State of Iowa, ex rel. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, vs. Austin J. DeCoster d/b/a DeCoster Farms of Iowa, Wright County Law No. 20969-1196, filed 11/25/96. (Consolidated with Hamilton County Law No. 025360, filed 4/24/97; see next item below.)

Partial summary judgment entered by the Court against DeCoster on September 4, 1997.

Remaining issues tried to the Court on September 16-18, 1997.

Ruling on 1/15/98 assessed $10,000 civil penalty for illegal discharges at Nursery Unit #3 and Sow Unit #1. DeCoster's challenges to EPC referrals were rejected.

Appeal by defendant to Supreme Court was argued 12/13/99.

Supreme Court affirmed 3/22/00.

[Constitutes one "strike" toward "habitual violator" and one "strike" toward "chronic violator" status. See Endnote, below.]

3. State of Iowa, ex rel. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, vs. Austin J. DeCoster d/b/a/ DeCoster Farms of Iowa, Hamilton County Law No. 025360, filed 4/24/97. (Consolidated with Wright County Law No. 20969-1196, filed 11/25/96; see previous item.)

Partial summary judgment entered by the Court against DeCoster on September 4, 1997.

Remaining issues tried to the Court on September 16-18, 1997.

Ruling on 1/15/98 assessed $10,000 civil penalty for illegal discharges at Sow Unit #1 and Nursery Unit #3. DeCoster's challenges to EPC referrals were rejected.

Appeal by defendant to Supreme Court was argued 12/13/99.

Supreme Court affirmed 3/22/00.

[Constitutes one "strike" toward "habitual violator" and one "strike" toward "chronic violator" status. See Endnote, below.]

4. State of Iowa, ex rel. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, vs. Austin J. DeCoster d/b/a/ DeCoster Farms of Iowa, Wright County Law No. LACV021131, filed 3/20/98.

Sought civil penalties and injunctive relief for illegal discharge and improper land disposal at Nursery Unit #7, Sow Unit #11, and Nursery Unit #4.

Tried to Court on 3/16/99.

Ruling on 5/28/99 assessed $25,000 civil penalty for illegal discharge and improper land disposal at Nursery Unit #7, Sow Unit #11, and Nursery Unit #4.

Appeal by defendant to Supreme Court is pending. DeCoster will dismiss appeal per stipulation and agreement 6/15/00 and will pay the $25,000 civil penalty.

[If violations are upheld, constitute three "strikes" toward "habitual violator" and three "strikes" toward "chronic violator" status.]

5. State of Iowa, ex rel. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, vs. Austin J. DeCoster d/b/a/ DeCoster Farms of Iowa, Lucas County Law No. LACV030433, filed 4/24/00.

Sought civil penalties and injunctive relief for illegal discharge, violation of water quality standards, failure to retain manure, and failure to notify the DNR of a manure spill at Nursery Unit M-1.

Case resolved by stipulation and agreement and consent order filed 6/15/00 in Lucas County: DeCoster admits violation and will pay $125,000 civil penalty; Attorney General will dismiss suit. Permanent injunction entered.

ENDNOTE: "Habitual" and "chronic violator" status under Iowa law:

Under Iowa law, "habitual violators" face enhanced penalties up to $25,000 per day per violation (compared to the normal $5,000 per day per violation), prohibition of any construction of confinement feeding operations, and denial of new DNR permits for five years for confinement feeding operations. (DNR permits for confinement feeding operations also cannot be granted while lawsuits are pending.)

Habitual violators must have been the subject of "three strikes" -- three violations referred to the Attorney General for legal action and assessed a civil penalty by a Court. The DNR makes the classification determination pursuant to Iowa Code section 455B.191(7).

"Chronic violators" lose the rebuttable presumption that a confinement feeding operation is not a nuisance. Chronic violators must have been the subject of "three strikes" -- either DNR civil penalties of $3,000 or more, or a court order or judgment in a legal action brought by the Attorney General after referral by the DNR or Environmental Protection Commission. [Note: The Iowa Supreme Court in 1998 issued a decision that determined statutory nuisance protection - "immunizing" parties from nuisance actions - is unconstitutional.]

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