Judge rejects permits for northwest Kansas hog operations

December 23, 2019 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has invalidated two state permits allowing construction of large hog production operations in northwest Kansas that environmentalists deemed too close to surface water.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson ruled earlier this month that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment violated state law. The permits were issued for four operations in Norton and Phillips counties in 2017 and 2018, under Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The operations were under common management tied to prominent northwest Kansas hog farmer Terry Nelson but organized with as separate companies. KDHE allowed construction of each facility up to 250 feet from surface water. A single larger facility would have had to be 500 feet away.

The Sierra Club sued in 2018, arguing that the arrangement allowed Nelson and his relatives to skirt tougher regulations for one larger operation. An attorney for the Kansas Livestock Association, which provided engineering services, said it had consulted with KDHE on the arrangement’s legality.

Anderson called KDHE’s decisions “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to reconsider its actions. The agency and the livestock association did not respond to requests for comment, and Nelson Farms declined to take questions.