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Chicken farmers' side needs to be heard

It is true that there are at least two sides to every story, including the situation of Gov. Martin O'Malley entering into the ongoing case between the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic and the Hudson family of Worcester County and Perdue Farms. I have to wonder, has the Environmental Law Clinic only looked at one side of this story? I also have to wonder if the Maryland taxpayer would only look at one side.

Since it seems as though only one side of the story is being told, in The Baltimore Sun and elsewhere, let's examine the facts of the other side of the story. In 2010, a federal lawsuit was filed against Alan and Kristin Hudson and Perdue Farms by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, alleging that during an aerial surveillance of the Hudson farm, a pile of manure on their property was discharging pollutants via trenches into a field ditch and that this is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Hudson farm, in fact, has never had a "longstanding manure pile." The Waterkeeper Alliance made this accusation because it mistakenly thought a lawfully obtained pile of biosolids, delivered to the farm from the town of Ocean City, was chicken manure. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) investigated the situation, asked the Hudsons to move the pile to a different location on the farm, and concluded that no further action was required on the farm's part other than to spread the biosolid pile in the spring for the next crop growing season. A fine assessed by MDE was paid, and the matter was thought to be over.

The Waterkeeper Alliance proceeded with its lawsuit even though the MDE considered the matter to be closed. To help its case, the Waterkeeper Alliance enlisted the assistance of the University Of Maryland School Of Law's Environmental Law Clinic to represent it. The Hudsons and Perdue were not given the option of utilizing the services of this taxpayer-subsidized law clinic and have instead retained private counsel.

Perhaps a large corporation such as Perdue would have no trouble covering its legal costs, but a farm family such as the Hudsons do not have the same financial resources and are now facing mounting legal fees as they continue to fight this case. If, in fact, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Assateague Coastal Trust lawsuit costs have been paid through nonprofit advocacy groups, as implied by a recent editorial in The Sun, why do they need the students from the Maryland taxpayer-subsidized law school to argue their case? It seems to me that the nonprofits should pay to have their own attorneys fight their battle and not depend on taxpayer dollars to do it.

In its editorial, The Sun asks how the governor could possibly know who is in the right in this case. But how does The Baltimore Sun know who is right? How can the claim be made that the governor is bullying the school when the Waterkeeper Alliance is doing the very thing to the Hudsons and Perdue?

Richard F. Colburn, a Republican, represents District 37 in the Maryland Senate. His email is richard.colburn@senate.state.md.us.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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