J.R. Simplot Seeks CWA Case Dismissal

J.R. Simplot Idaho Feedlot Motions Court to Dismiss Clean Water Act Lawsuit

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A federal court in Idaho will consider a motion to dismiss a Clean Water Act lawsuit against J.R. Simplot for allegedly discharging manure and other pollutants into the Snake River. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A 150,000-head J.R. Simplot feedlot operating without a discharge permit for years in Grand View, Idaho, has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit the company faces from an environmental group.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho has set a Nov. 9 hearing on the motion to dismiss, as well as another motion to stay the case.

In May 2023, Snake River Waterkeeper filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit against the company, in an attempt to stop the feedlot from discharging manure and other waste into the Snake River without a federal discharge permit.

The feedlot has been operating without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit since 2012.

Because of the statute of limitations, Snake River Waterkeeper specifically alleged the discharges have been ongoing for five years and two months.

In a motion filed by J.R. Simplot, the company said the case should be dismissed because the lawsuit does not specify exactly where and when the alleged illegal discharges occurred.

"SRW's notice alleges that due to precipitation falling on Simplot's property and mixing with manure and other pollutants, Simplot illegally discharged without a permit every single day for the last five years and 60 days (or for the last 1,865 days straight) -- the period of time corresponding to the applicable statute of limitations," the company said in its motion to dismiss.

The company said in the motion it is possible the feedlot has not discharged manure or other pollutants.

"SRW's failure to do more than throw up its hands and insist that although it has no idea if, let alone when, a discharge has ever occurred," the company said in the motion,

"'Every day must therefore be a violation day' -- SRW has deprived Simplot with an important component of the notice requirement. Specifically, SRW has withheld from both Simplot and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality sufficient information about the dates of the alleged violations which is needed to investigate whether -- in light of what is otherwise known to have occurred on those dates -- Simplot could have a discharge problem."

Snake River Waterkeeper filed a response in opposition, telling the court J.R. Simplot is required to have a discharge permit because it is a confined animal feeding operation.

The groups said the citizen lawsuit provisions of the Clean Water Act do not require plaintiffs to "list every specific aspect or detail" of every violation.

"The Feedlot and its fields are collectively considered a 'concentrated animal feeding operation' or 'CAFO' and are a statutorily defined 'point source' under the act," SRW said in a response.

"Pursuant to the CWA, the discharge of pollutants from a point source to navigable waters like the Snake River is strictly prohibited unless such discharges are authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit. Defendants admit they do not presently have a NPDES permit authorizing discharges of pollutants from their industrial facility, meaning each and every discharge from Simplot's CAFO is an actionable violation of the statute."

Snake River Waterkeeper alleges in the lawsuit the company has not properly managed manure at the feedlot, is unable to control snowmelt and rain, and overapplies manure to nearby fields.

According to the complaint, the feedlot was issued an NPDES permit that became effective on April 3, 1997. That permit was administratively extended on Jan. 7, 2002.

On Dec. 18, 2012, the EPA informed J.R. Simplot that because it had not timely submitted a new notice of intent and a nutrient management plan to receive coverage under the EPA Region 10's NPDES general permit, "any discharges from the Grand View feedlot would be unauthorized and would fail to comply with Section 301 of the Clean Water Act," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit calls for the court to require J.R. Simplot to pay fines for each day it discharged pollution without a permit. According to the complaint, that adds up to five years and 60 days -- or as high as $121.8 million.

According to a news release from Snake River Waterkeeper, the feedlot houses up to at least 65,000 cattle that generate at least 47,450 tons of manure each year.

During a six-year period, the environmental group said it conducted water quality sampling in the Snake River at the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Management Area and other locations near the feedlot.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality classifies the stretch of the middle Snake River near the feedlot as impaired for failing to meet water quality standards.

Read more on DTN:

"J.R. Simplot Sued for CWA Violations," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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