Lois Alt is about as salt of the earth as they come. She's a hard working, honest and humble chicken farmer in West Virginia.
And like most West Virginians, and farmers for that matter, she's not about to cover her eyes while the government tries to pull one over on her.
Alt has filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for demanding she obtain a pollution permit for her non-polluting poultry farm. And until she gets the permit, she's looking at a fine of $37,500 per day.
According to the EPA, because of some dust on the ground and a few splotches of litter outside her chicken houses, Alt must be polluting somehow and needs to apply for a "National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System" permit.
The little bit of dust and litter are typical of any barnyard, and Alt has won environmental stewardship awards for her farm's cleanliness. But none of that matters to the EPA, which is using Alt's farm as a catapult to wildly interpret the Clean Water Act and enforce it accordingly.
A farm is a farm. It's not a laboratory.
But the EPA has come up with an interpretation of the Clean Water Act that is contrary to how it has been interpreted over the last 40 years. Basically, farmers are going to be regulated if they have animals, according to the agency.
This isn't the first time the EPA has tried to garner more control under the act by using intimidating inspections and enforcement efforts. It's becoming commonplace. The agency has been taken to court many times because of it.
In two prior court cases, the American Farm Bureau Federation defeated EPA regulations that illegally attempted to impose broad permit requirements for thousands of livestock and poultry farmers whose operations have no regulated discharge.
The EPA's order to Alt represents just another attempt to regulate non-polluting farms. This time, the agency is unlawfully narrowing the statutory exemption for "agricultural storm water discharges."