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Bill establishes time limits for township and county infrastructure review
A bill approved by the Ohio General Assembly proposes limiting the amount of time county and township officials have for recommending local infrastructure needs for the operation or expansion of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Facility (CAFF). Both the House and Senate have approved H.B. 22, sponsored by Rep. Buchy (R-77). The bill now awaits action by Governor Kasich.
Recently introduced on May 17, 2011, H.B. 22 proposes a 75 day time limit for county commissioners and township trustees to provide final recommendations for improvements to local infrastructure that are needed to accomodate a CAFF. Notification by the CAFF to the county and township is a required step in the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) permit application process. Information on anticipated traffic routes and number and weights of vehicles must accompany the notification. Under current law, the county and township must next provide initial recomendations to the CAFF for needed infrastructure improvements. The CAFF may accept the recommendations or may propose an alternative, and the county and township must then render written final recommendations for infrastructure improvements. The CAFF must submit the county and township's final recommendations in its LEPP permit application.
Under the language agreed to by the legislature in H.B. 22, if the county or township fails to provide the written final recommendations in 75 days, the CAFF may proceed with the permit application by submiting an affidavit in lieu of the written final recommendations. The affidavit must state that the CAFF provided the required notification but did not receive written final recommendations from the county or township within 75 days of giving the notification.
The legislature's approval of H.B. 22 comes in the wake of a controversial denial of a LEPP permit application by Hi-Q for an egg laying facility in Union County. ODA Director Zehringer denied Hi-Q's application because it did not contain the required final infrastructure recommendations from county and township officials. Hi-Q and Union County had reached an impasse on infrastructure issues, and Hi-Q submitted the permit without any final recommendations by the county. (See our earlier post on the Director's decision.) Under H.B. 22's language, Hi-Q could have submitted an affidavit instead of the written final recommendations because more than 75 days had passed since Hi-Q's original notification to the county and township. The Director thus would not have had to deny the permit application for lack of county and township written final recommendations for infrastructure improvements.
H.B. 22 also proposes changing LEPP from a program to a Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, and contains a number of other revisions to ODA programs and regulations. See the analysis of H.B. 22 on the Ohio Legislature's website.
New law establishes clear standards for liability, adds alpacas, llamas and bison
Livestock owners and keepers in Ohio will soon have less risk of automatic liability when their animals escape enclosures and run loose on public roadways or the property of others. The Ohio legislature has revised the "animals running at large" law to clarify two different standards for criminal and civil liability under the law.
Criminal liability will occur only when proven that a livestock operator behaved "recklessly" in allowing the animals to run loose. Under Ohio law, a person behaves recklessly when he or she perversely disregards a known risk of his or her conduct, with heedless indifference to the consequences of that conduct. For example, a livestock owner who sees but intentionally ignores a downed fence where cattle graze near a roadway could be deemed "reckless."
The new law establishes a different standard of liability for a civil situation. A person may recover damages against a livestock owner if harm resulted because the livestock owner's "negligence" caused the animals to escape. Under Ohio law, negligence is a substantial lapse of "due care" that results in a failure to perceive or avoid a risk. For example, a livestock owner who has not checked the line fences in a grazing area for several years could be deemed "negligent."
Additionally, the revised law states that an animal being at large creates an initial presumption of negligence by the owner. The animal owner must then rebut the presumption by proving that he or she exercised due care.
The revised law should address a growing problem in Ohio, where livestock owners have been held automatically liable when their animals are found running at large--regardless of the reason for the animals' escape or any actions taken or not taken by the owner. This problem has occurred most frequently with criminal prosecutions. Owners of escaped animals have been assessed automatic criminal penalties, without having an opportunity to explain their management practices or present facts about the animals' escape. The new law remedies this problem by clarifying that criminal liability is not "automatic" simply because livestock are loose; there must be proof that the owner was reckless.
In addition to addressing the standards for liability, the revised animals at large law also:
- Adds llamas, alpacas and bison to the list of animals addressed in the liability provisions, which already included horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, swine and geese.
- Also adds llamas, alpacas and bison to the law's provisions for taking, confinement and care of animals running at large.
- Removes a separate liability provision for male breeding animals; male breeding animals will now fall under the same liability section of the law as other animals.
- Revises a similar civil liability provision for livestock in Ohio's line fence law to clarify that negligence is the requisite standard of liability under that law.
The governor signed H.B. 22 on June 21, 2011; the law takes effect on September 20, 2011. View H.B. 22 here.
Current bill in House would yield different outcome for Hi-Q CAFF permit
In a unique and controversial case, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has denied an application under its Livestock Environmental Permitting Program for Hi-Q Egg Products, LLC to establish an egg laying facility in Union County. In denying the application, ODA Director Zehringer followed the recommendations made in April 2011 by the ODA hearing officer who reviewed the permit application (see our earlier post). The hearing officer had recommended denial on the basis of an incomplete application, because Hi-Q's application did not include a written statement from local officials certifying that final recommendations had been made for local infrastructure improvements and costs, as required by program regulations (OAC 901:10-1-02(A)(6)). Hi-Q claimed that the county and township failed to provide the recommendations, while the county and township argued that there were no final recommendations because Hi-Q refused to discuss an alternative transportation route. In agreeing that the recommendations were not included in the application, Director Zehringer stated that there was "no other viable option but to deny the [permit] due to an incomplete application."
Ohio's Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) regulates the installation and operation of large Confined Animal Feeding Facilities (CAFFs). Critics have long complained that the program fails to consider the potential impacts of CAFF development upon the local community. Those concerned about local impacts have used the public hearing process to voice opposition to CAFF permits, but have never successfully prevented approval of a permit. Until now, the program's obscure requirement for county and township approval of infrastructure improvements has gone unnoticed as a prevention mechanism by such opponents.
While the Hi-Q denial is a first, opponents of large livestock operations won't have cause to celebrate the decision for long if a current legislative proposal meets with success. H.B. 229, introduced May 17, 2011 by Rep. Buchy, will place a time limit on the county and township officials who must consider local infrastructure improvements needed for a CAFF permit application. According to the proposal, local officials would have 75 days after receiving notice of the proposed facility to render a written statement on local infrastructure improvements and costs. After 75 days, the permit applicant may submit a notarized affidavit stating that it had provided local officials with notice but did not receive any written final recommendations from the local government within the required timeframe. Under the law as proposed by H.B. 229, ODA could not deny a permit application that lacks the written statement from local officials as long as 75 days have passed after giving notice and the permit applicant submits the notarized affidavit rather than the written statement from local officials.