Washington state has among the most strict dairy management regulations in the nation designed to protect the environment. Dairy farmers are subject to regulations, inspections and enforcement by the state Departments of Agriculture and Ecology as well as the EPA. Federal laws allow for “citizen” lawsuits when government agencies are not enforcing the laws, but in our state these laws are enforced.
Lawsuits filed by Oregon-based attorney Charlie Tebbutt against numerous Washington dairy farms are not about protecting the environment. They are about generating millions in legal fees mostly through settlements which are driven by the very high cost of defense. In addition to raising the cost of farms and forcing some out of business, the workers who value these jobs lose as well.
Despite the clear intent of Congress, these settlements often include funds that are returned to the same “citizens” or environmental groups Mr. Tebbutt uses as clients. Citizen lawsuit settlements often include requirements to pay into a fund administered by the Rose Foundation in California, which then distributes funds in the form of so-called environmental grants back to some of the same environmental groups involved in litigation. Friends of Toppenish Creek is one example of a local environmental group which has benefited from the citizen lawsuit settlements.
We do not have information about the specifics of any of the farms involved in the litigation, but strenuously object to this abuse of the legal system in clear violation of the intent of Congress and the Supreme Court.
For more information about how the environmental litigation industry conducts its legal extortion or “shakedown”:
Puget Soundkeeper’s Harm (see especially the video and last article on this page)