Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is playing politics by demonizing the poultry industry and setting unrealistic goals for reduced pollution levels in Oklahoma’s rivers.
“Unfortunately, your attorney general is not interested in resolving the situation. He’s more interested in headlines,” Huckabee said Oct. 11. “It’s a great political platform for him.”
Huckabee, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, was in Tulsa Oct. 11 at the start of a two-day swing through Oklahoma to support Republican candidates running for office in next month’s mid-term elections.
Edmondson is suing Arkansas poultry companies, contending their chicken litter is fouling Oklahoma waterways.
Huckabee said Edmondson proposed a standard to reduce phosphorous levels in Oklahoma’s six scenic rivers that “has no scientific basis of possibility” and has set an “unachievable timetable” in which to reach those levels.
Huckabee, who is term-limited as governor and leaves office early next year, also accused Edmondson of being more of a friend to the attorneys who stand to get rich litigating the pollution fight than environmentalists.
But in a statement released from his office, Edmondson called Huckabee “a poultry company apologist.”
“He should be ashamed of the poor job Arkansas has done in regulating the poultry industry. It is clear they run his state,” Edmondson said in the statement. “Just like me, most Oklahomans care more about clean water than anything Governor Huckabee has to say.”
In 2002, Oklahoma established its first numerical phosphorous standard for its rivers, including the Illinois, at 0.037 milligrams per liter.
A year later, state officials proposed a 10-year timetable for Arkansas to meet the new standard.
The setting of a new standard followed decades of fighting between the states, with Oklahoma pointing the finger in the late 1990s at Arkansas poultry companies, saying excess phosphorous coming from across the state line was polluting Oklahoma’s waterways.
By then, Oklahoma had already tightened its own standards for poultry farmers and became frustrated that similar guidelines could not be implemented in Arkansas.
Last year, Edmondson brought a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against 14 poultry companies, accusing them of polluting the Illinois River.
Huckabee said Arkansas’ poultry industry has made great strides in policing itself and reducing excess waste. He also blamed what he called an overlooked factor in the pollution battle: rapid development.
“This is as much about people as it is chicken,” Huckabee said.
Thursday, Huckabee was scheduled to attend events in Oklahoma City, Midwest City and Norman.
Huckabee has made numerous trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which select delegates early in the presidential nomination process. He said he will wait until next year to decide whether he will run for president.
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