OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond says a Wednesday decision by Oklahoma Northern District Federal Judge Gregory Frizzell favors the State of Oklahoma in a long-running federal lawsuit against over a dozen poultry companies for environmental damage to Oklahoma waters, particularly the Illinois River watershed and Lake Tenkiller.

In 2005, then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed the suit against 13 poultry companies and subsidiaries for improper litter disposal.

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“This is a great and historic day for Oklahoma,” Drummond said. “While this decision has been a long time coming, it is important to note that in the intervening years since the filing of the suit, the poultry industry has made, or is willing to make, strong improvements in waste disposal to ameliorate the extent of the problem. Oklahoma has amazing natural resources that deserve our vigilant protection. We will thoroughly review the judge’s decision and determine the appropriate path forward.”

Judge Frizzell found in favor of the State and has ordered the parties to meet and attempt to reach an agreement by March 17, 2023.

If one is not reached by then, Frizzell will render a judgment on remedies.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau released the following statement:

Oklahoma Farm Bureau members are disappointed with the conclusion reached by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma today finding in favor of the state of Oklahoma and holding poultry companies liable for high phosphorous levels causing pollution in the Illinois River Watershed.

For decades, Oklahoma poultry farmers have been regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry which requires nutrient management plans and limits on poultry litter application.

Additionally, in the almost 20 years since this lawsuit was filed, our members have worked with agencies like the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to improve water quality in the Illinois River Watershed using conservation practices like streambank restoration and filter strips. These farmer-led, proactive efforts have contributed to consistent improvement in water quality in the watershed.

Oklahoma’s family farmers have a vested interest in protecting the very environment where they and their families live, and they have implemented extensive steps including water testing and moving poultry litter out of the watershed to ensure that our state’s natural resources are protected. As proud caretakers of the land, our members are willing to meet and exceed environmental standards as they raise the protein that our state and our world rely upon.

Tyson Foods released the following statement:

We are aware of the decision and are reviewing. We have no comment at this time.

“It’s real opportunity to clean up the Illinois River, clean up Lake Tenkiller, and to institute permanent changes to how the poultry industry operates in northeastern Oklahoma,” said former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who filed the lawsuit in 2005. “To the benefit of recreation, to the benefit of the people who live there, to the benefit of drinking water. All of those things are possibilities based on this decision.”