Hello! I am back in the saddle again after spending some time on maternity leave. Thank you all so much for your kind wishes for our little family.
During middle of the night feedings, I’ve managed to stay up to date on what’s been happening in the ag law world. Here are some of the top stories from the last two months.
WOTUS rule stayed nationwide, cases will not be consolidated. As you previously read, the United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit has issued a stay of the EPA’s rule defining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The stay is in effect nationwide in order to allow numerous legal challenges to the rule to be heard before the rule is enforced. [Read article here.] Paul Goeringer at the University of Maryland wrote an excellent blog post analyzing the Court’s decision. Additionally, in October the EPA’s request to consolidate the multiple cases filed challenging the rule in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia was denied. Instead, the cases will remain pending in the courts in which they were filed: Northern District of Georgia, Southern District of Georgia, District of Minnesota, District of North Dakota, Southern District of Ohio, Northern District of Oklahoma, and Southern District of Texas. [Read Order here.] Additionally, a potential Congressional solution passed the Senate last week and will now head to the House. [Read article here.]
Peanut company CEO sentenced to 28 years in prison after Salmonella outbreak. Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after peanuts tainted with Salmonella were knowingly shipped by his company, followed by false reports in an attempt to cover up the company’s actions. Prosecutors claimed that the company had been shipping tainted peanuts in 2008 and 2009, resulting in over 700 people becoming ill and 9 dying. Parnell was charged in federal court on counts of fraud, conspiracy, and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. This case is newsworthy for two reasons. First, it is the longest sentence ever given related to a food poisoning incident. Second, it is the first time a company executive has been convicted on federal felony charges in a food poisoning case. Parnell’s attorneys have said they plan to appeal the conviction and sentence. [Read article here.]
Greater sage grouse removed from Endangered Species Act consideration. In addition to the lesser prairie chicken news you read about last week, the Endangered Species Act was also in the news in September regarding the greater sage grouse. The US Fish and Wildlife Service found that the greater sage grouse was not entitled to be listed under the ESA. In reaching this decision the USFWS cited the ongoing voluntary conservation program initiated after a 2010 report showed massive losses of the bird. These efforts were found to be succeeding in protecting the species and listing was not warranted. [Read article here.]
Oral argument held in Utah Endangered Species Act appeal. The United States Court of Appeal for the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument in US Fish and Wildlife Service v. People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, a case involving the endangered Utah prairie dog. The trial court found that because the species was found only in Utah and had no significant impact on interstate commerce, it could not fall under the Endangered Species Act. [Read full summary of the decision here.] The USFWS appealed the ruling, the first of its kind imposing this limit on the Act. [Read article here.]
Texas Supreme Court hears oral arguments in City of Lubbock v. Coyote Lake Ranch. In October, the Texas Supreme Court heard argument from the parties regarding whether the accommodation doctrine should apply to groundwater. You can read my prior post detailing the case here. Now, the decision is in the hands of the justices. The Ft. Worth Star Telegram did a great article summarizing the oral argument.
Indiana Right to Farm Act Challenged. The Indiana Right to Farm law is once again facing constitutional challenge. Two families have filed suit against a nearby hog farm claiming the farm’s odors have created intolerable living conditions. The Right to Farm Act would provide an affirmative defense to the hog farms and defeat the suit. [Read more about Right to farm statutes here.] Realizing that, the plaintiffs have not only filed a claim for nuisance, but have also challenged the constitutionality of the Act. [Read article here.]