C&H hog farm sues state over records request
by Emily Walkenhorst
C&H Hog Farms has sued the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality over an unfulfilled public records request.
In the petition to Newton County Circuit Court, the farmers seek the delivery of the requested records and for the public comment period on the department's draft decision denying the farmers' application for a new operating permit to remain open "for a reasonable period of time" after providing the records.
The farmers submitted a records request to the department Oct. 10 under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The requested records include communications between the department and several outside agencies and individuals regarding the application for a new operating permit. The request also sought permits, nutrient management plans and communications regarding permit approvals or denials in any location known to or suspected to have karst or under a program addressing water pollution.
On Monday, the department wrote in an email to Jason Henson, one of the C&H owners, that the request was for "such a voluminous and broad category of records" that the department "cannot locate and identify potentially responsive records with reasonable effort."
The department cited Ark. Code Ann. 25-19-105(a)(2)(C), which states that records requests "shall be sufficiently specific to enable the custodian to locate the records with reasonable effort." The department asked Henson to revise his request to include details such as "a date range, specific subject matter, or specific recipients/senders."
In its petition, C&H contends that the request was carefully worded and that the department "is precisely the agency with knowledge as to what documents are responsive to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request."
The farmers need the documents in order to file their public comments, the petition reads.
The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission received the same request and had already provided documents, the filing notes.