Local citizens will be filing their lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C.
They maintain the EPA has failed to enforce the Clean Air Act for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Their attorney, Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, told Decorah Newspapers Tuesday that he would be filing their petition as soon as he's "admitted" to the United States District Court in the District of Columbia.
Taylor originally filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids last July, but since then, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case because under the federal administrative procedure act, it was not the right venue for filing the case, Taylor said.
"We're asking the court to make a finding that these air pollutants from CAFOs are harmful to human health, designate them as pollutants to be regulated under the Clean Air Act and impose regulations to limit what can be emitted from CAFOs," Taylor told Decorah Newspapers when the original suit was filed.
"Scientific studies over the past several years have confirmed emissions of pollutants from animal feeding operations, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, cause health effects on people near them," the lawsuit stated.
The suit also cited a study conducted in 2006 of two Iowa schools, one of them North Winneshiek, which is located near a hog CAFO, and another school, located more than 10 miles from the nearest CAFO.
"The study found a significantly higher rate of asthma among children in North Winneshiek than in the other school," the lawsuit filed last July said.
There are now six confinement buildings and three feedlots within two miles of the school.
The plaintiffs in the case are Samuel Zook, a former North Winneshiek student who suffers from asthma, Michelle McLain-Kruse and Annette Laitinen, whose children have attended North Winneshiek and North Winneshiek teacher Birgitta Meade. The plaintiffs are "a group that is separate from the North Winneshiek School District," according to North Winneshiek Superintendent/Principal Tim Dugger, who said North Winneshiek's asthma rate is below the national average.
Taylor said the same lawsuit would now be filed in Washington, D. C. To comply with the administrative procedure act, Wallace had to give the EPA notice the plaintiffs would be filing the lawsuit. The EPA had six months to respond and to comply with the plaintiffs' request.
The EPA has not responded, and Taylor is prepared to file the lawsuit. He said for most federal courts, a practicing attorney has to file an application form and pay a registration fee for admittance to the court. However, in the District of Columbia, the lawyer requesting admittance must provide a statement from a lawyer they've known for one year who lives in the District of Columbia and who is already admitted to the court there. Once his application is accepted, Taylor said he would be required to go to Washington, D.C. for a formal swearing in ceremony.
A fundraising concert to help pay for the litigation is Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Decorah. It features John Goodin and Erik Sessions, both of Decorah, with Pat O' Laughlin and Ehler Orngard. Admission is $10 and doors open at 7 p.m.
More than $7,500 has been raised for lawsuit expenses so far. Information about the lawsuit and opportunities for further gifting will be available at the concert. Donations are tax deductible.