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Scheevel calls charges ridiculous

Sun, Jul 30th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, July 31, 2000

Last week a group of Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members from Fillmore County called on state Attorney General Mike Hatch to investigate whether state legislators improperly pressured the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) into changing its opinion regarding the proposed dairy expansion of Reiland Farms.

LSP says that prior to a March 29 meeting, which was called by State Senator Kenric Scheevel R-Preston, MDH had recommended that an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) be conducted for the dairy. On May 16, MDH withdrew its comments regarding the Reiland project. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continued to recommend that an EIS be done.

On May 23, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens Board voted 5-2 against requiring Reiland Farms proposed project to undergo an EIS. LSP subsequently filed a lawsuit against the MPCA ruling.

"In this case the Minnesota Department of Health decided to protect themselves instead of our air and water," said Jeff Tart of rural Spring Valley, whose land sits across the road from the proposed Reiland site. "Their decision was based on political pressure, not science."

Patricia Bloomgren, Director of MDHs Environmental Health Division said in an e-mail memo obtained by Reiland opponents that during the March 29 meeting a "high" level of "hostility" was shown to both MDH and DNR staffers.

"Their primary goal seemed to be to threaten us into submission so that we do not do our job (protecting public health and groundwater," Bloomgren wrote, referring to some of the lawmakers present at the meeting.

The Reiland project would construct a new 500 cow (700 animal unit) confined dairy facility with two manure lagoons having a capacity of 7.3 million gallons. The planned location for the project is approximately 3.5 miles southeast of Spring Valley in Section 7 of Forestville Township.

Among those attending the March 29, meeting were Scheevel, Rep. Gregory Davids R-Preston, other state legislators and top officials at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, MPCA, DNR and MDH.

Senator Scheevel told the Journal last week that the meeting was called in order to look at feedlot issues, and especially the jurisdiction of the various state agencies in granting permits.

"Using the Reiland project as an example, I asked the MDH and DNR to justify their negative comments because an EIS can cost up to $100,000 and virtually kill a project," Scheevel said. "Never once were these departments asked to change their comments or reports."

"These allegations are utterly ridiculous," Scheevel said, referring to LSPs charges that the MDH was intimidated into changing its stance. "Its like looking for an elephant in a willow tree. I will never apologize for asking an agency to justify their actions."

"These are blackmailing tactics by the Land Stewardship Project and their supporters who are trying to intimidate and harass legislators," Representative Greg Davids said in a telephone interview with the Journal. "I was not elected to be intimidated by terrorist groups such as the LSP. This is cheap and dirty election year politics at its worst."

Regarding Patricia Bloomgren and her comments about the high level of hostility directed at MDH and DNR staffers by lawmakers, Davids said that she was not telling the truth. "Even her own Commissioner at the MDH (Jan Malcolm) says that nothing happened at the meeting," Davids said.

Scheevel said that the Attorney Generals office did not even have jurisdiction in this matter. "When you send a letter to the Attorney General, it makes for a good headline," Scheevel said. "I dont play politics with the family farm and I dont think the Land Stewardship Project should either."

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