The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening action against a Republican lawmaker in Tennessee after finding out that he dumped nearly a million gallons of pig feces in the streams and fields surrounding his farm. Representative Andy Holt, the same lawmaker who was the crusader of an agriculture whistleblower suppression (“ag-gag”) bill in his state, received a letter from the EPA in April telling him that he must “arrange a meeting in this office to show cause why the EPA should not take formal civil enforcement action against you.” It seems that Holt has as much regard the environment as he does the animals he claims to care about.
Earlier this year, a local Tennessee news agency, NewsChannel 5 Investigates, reported that Holt’s hog farm not only operated without the proper permits, but also took 800,000 gallons of hog excrement from his lagoons and dumped them in water and on land surrounding his illegal farm. The first incident occurred in February 2011, when he dumped 500,000 gallons; the second time was in April 2013 and more than 200,000 were dumped.
When Holt was interviewed by the news station he claimed that he had to do it because it rained heavily before each incident and his lagoons were in danger of failing,”In an effort not to lose all the manure that’s impounded in that facility, then what you do is remove a portion of that.” So he polluted the land surrounding his farm because he didn’t want to lose any.
When state investigated the Republican’s farm in 2011, one of the investigators wrote in a report that “enforcement action was discouraged by upper management” at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. In other words: he was protected by his fellow high-ranking Republicans. When the Commissioner of the Department of Environment, Robert Martineau, was asked about the report he said he had no idea why the inspector said that.
In between the time Holt was dumping hundreds of thousand of gallons of pig manure and polluting the environment, he also sponsored a bill that would have criminalized whistleblowers who exposed inhumane practices and animal abuse on farms and in slaughterhouses. Right before he put forth the infamous bill, he took gifts from the Farm Bureau. Holt claimed that he was trying to “protect livestock in Tennessee” from “radical animal activists” who were “intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17-year-old women.” Seriously. He actually said that. Thankfully, the bill ultimately failed when lawmakers saw through his smokescreen.
Holt is just another example of a right-wing politician who has nothing but hate for the EPA and anyone else who gets between him and his profit margin. The GOP and their lobbyist groups don’t care how many harm they do to the environment as long as it has a positive effect on their bottom line. Holt proved that when he said he pumped almost a million gallons of manure into streams because he didn’t want to lose all of his manure. The GOP will poison the well and scorch the earth if that means they can make a dollar.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.