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Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill Shielding Poultry Companies From Lawsuits Over Chicken Litter Pollution

By Ben Felder

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said he was “very excited” to sign into law a bill that shields poultry corporations from lawsuits over pollution caused by chicken waste, which for decades has led to high rates of phosphorus and E. coli in the state’s eastern waterways. 

Senate Bill 1424 prevents lawsuits against poultry companies over chicken waste pollution as long as the poultry farm has an approved waste disposal plan with the state. 

The new law comes after a nearly two-decade-long legal battle between the state and several poultry companies, including Tyson Foods, over pollution in Oklahoma’s Illinois River Watershed. 

In that case, Tyson argued it should not be liable for pollution because its farms had approved plans with the state on how to dispose of the waste, which is often sold as fertilizer to other farmers. 

However, a federal judge ruled last year that Tyson and the other companies were responsible for the pollution. The state and companies failed to reach an agreement after a court-ordered mediation, and a final order from the judge is still pending. 

Earlier this year, Investigate Midwest reported how lawmakers had originally attempted to end the ongoing lawsuit between the state and Tyson through this new bill, but the retroactive language was removed after some questioned its legality. 

But in the years since that lawsuit, state lawmakers have taken multiple steps to deregulate the growing poultry industry and shield it from legal attacks. 

Last year, Investigate Midwest reported how the state allows large poultry farms to avoid a more restrictive registration process and construct buildings that house thousands of chickens closer to homes and neighborhoods. 

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