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Poultry group seeks documents from Md. Attorney General on its role in environmental lawsuit

GEORGETOWN, Del. — Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc, (DPI), the 2,000-member non-profit trade association for the meat chicken industry in Maryland, Delaware, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, has filed a Public Information Act request with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler that seeks documents and correspondence among him, his staff, the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, several environmental groups, and several individuals active in the environmental industry.

DPI is trying to learn the role of the Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council in the now withdrawn request by the Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of four organizations to obtain Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) documents about hundreds of Eastern Shore chicken farms that are covered by the state-issued Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) General Permit.

"It's the job of DPI to protect its members, Maryland farm families who raise chickens, and those involved in the poultry business. After learning of the Attorney General’s office and advisory council’s role in the now-withdrawn Public Information Act request, we are compelled to better understand the relationships and agendas of those influencing environmental policy in Maryland. DPI’s Public Information Act request will help shed light on these behind-the-scenes maneuverings,” said DPI Executive Director Bill Satterfield.

DPI’s actions follow the public disclosure by the University of Maryland Carey School of Law that the Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council was involved in the decision by the Environmental Law Clinic to represent the four organizations in their quest to obtain Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) documents about Eastern Shore chicken farms. The law school reported that the CAFO General Permit was discussed during a December 2012 Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council meeting. The law school also reported that one suggestion that came from the meeting, and in a “follow-up conversation with the Attorney General’s Office”, was that the chicken farms’ Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) should be “reviewed” to determine if these plans are an effective way to regulate discharges in the context of a Clean Water Act General Permit. The CAFO General Permit renewal process is slated for 2014.

“Even though the Environmental Law Clinic’s Public Information Act request has since been withdrawn, the publically revealed discussions among the Attorney General’s Office, the law school, and the Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council involving the CAFO General Permit and CNMPs are relevant to DPI’s members,” Satterfield noted. “We believe the best interests of the citizens of Maryland are served by making public documents available to the public. This will allow all Marylanders to understand the many relationships among the Attorney General, his employees, the individuals and groups on his Environmental Advisory Council, the University of Maryland School of Law, and other activists in the environmental industry.”

DPI is seeking records and communications relating to: Attorney General Gansler’s Environmental Advisory Council; the Maryland General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations; the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic’s Public Information Act seeking CNMPs and its withdrawal; and pollution allegedly emanating from the Alan and Kristen Hudson Farm.

The request specifically seeks communications between and among: the Attorney General and his staff, including Deputy Attorney General Winfree, Deputy Attorney General Howard, Special Assistant to the Attorney General Erin Fitzsimmons, Assistant Attorneys General for the Maryland Department of the Environment; representatives of Maryland Waterkeepers, Riverkeepers or Coastkeepers, including, but not limited to Kathy Phillips and Drew Koslow; representatives of Food and Water Watch, including but not limited to Michelle Merkel and Scott Edwards; staff or students associated with the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, including but not limited to clinic director Jane Barrett; any representative of the Assateague Coastal Trust or Assateague Coastkeeper; members of the Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council; and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the founder of the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance.

If all or any part of this request is denied, DPI asked the Office of the Attorney General to provide a written statement of the grounds for the denial.

“We are hoping the Attorney General will cast some sunlight on the murky connections of these many groups and individuals so Marylanders understand how environmental policies are made in the Attorney General’s office and in the University of Maryland Carey School of Law,” Satterfield concluded.

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