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Pennsylvania Corporate Lobby Moves to Stop Local Governments from Regulating Factory Farms

Web Note: This is a blatant attempt to take away citizens' rights to pass and enforce local laws dealing with corporate power, public health, and environmental sustainability.

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced the filing of four lawsuits challenging four municipal ordinances.  These are the first lawsuits filed under Pennsylvania's Agricultural, Communities and Rural Environment (ACRE) law, which was enacted to help protect Pennsylvania agriculture from unauthorized municipal regulation.

"The lawsuits filed today ask Commonwealth Court to overturn these local ordinances because they unfairly and illegally restrict normal agricultural operations," Corbett said.

The ACRE law took effect on July 6, 2005.  It gives farmers the right to ask the Attorney General's Office to review local ordinances that they feel unlawfully restrict normal agricultural operations or ownership.  The ACRE law gives the Attorney General's Office the authority to file lawsuits in Commonwealth Court to challenge local ordinances that, in its judgment, violate state law.

Corbett said that before the ACRE law was passed, the only recourse farmers had to address illegal ordinances was to file their own lawsuits -- a time-consuming and expensive process.

"Agriculture helped settle and grow our state, and agriculture remains one of Pennsylvania's top industries," Corbett said. "Local governments have some regulatory power, but they do not have the power to violate state law, and they should not have the power to prevent farmers from earning an honest living."

Below is a summary of the four ACRE lawsuits filed today by the Office of Attorney General:

Richmond Township - Berks County

According to the Attorney General's lawsuit, the Richmond Township Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance in August 2000 to define and regulate "intensive agriculture," placing a series of restrictions on mushroom, poultry and livestock production.

The lawsuit states that Richmond Township has no legal authority to define, differentiate or regulate "intensive agriculture," and that the definition used in the ordinance is arbitrary, vague and unreasonable and invites discriminatory enforcement.  According to the lawsuit, the local ordinance violates the Nutrient Management Act, the Domestic Animals Law, the Right to Farm Law, the Agricultural Area Security Law and the Municipalities Planning Code.

The Attorney General's lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to declare the Richmond Township ordinance null and void, prevent the township from enforcing the illegal ordinance, and grant such other relief as the court finds necessary.

Locust Township - Columbia County

According to the Attorney General's lawsuit, the Locust Township Board of Supervisors amended the township's zoning ordinance in August 2001 to define and regulate "intensive animal agriculture," placing a series of restrictions on the housing, raising, feeding, production and maintenance of livestock or poultry.

The lawsuit states that Locust Township has no authority to define, differentiate or regulate "intensive agriculture," and that the township zoning review process is arbitrary, vague and invited discriminatory enforcement.  According to the lawsuit, the local ordinance violates the Nutrient Management Act, the Water Resources Planning Act, the Right to Farm Law, the Agricultural Area Security Law and the Municipalities Planning Code.

The Attorney General's lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to declare the Locust Township ordinance null and void, prevent the township from enforcing the illegal ordinance, and grant such other relief as the court finds necessary.

Heidelberg Township / North Heidelberg Township / Robesonia Borough / Womelsdorf Borough - Berks County

According to the Attorney General's lawsuit, Heidelberg Township, North Heidelberg Township, Robesonia Borough and Womelsdorf Borough adopted a joint zoning ordinance in January 2004 to define and regulate the "intensive raising of livestock or poultry," placing a series of restrictions on the raising and keeping of livestock and poultry.

The lawsuit states that the townships and boroughs have no authority to define, differentiate or regulate "intensive agriculture," and that the local ordinance violates the Nutrient Management Act, the Domestic Animals Law, the Water Resources Planning Act, the Right to Farm Law, the Agricultural Area Security Law and the Municipalities Planning Code.

The Attorney General's lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to declare the Heidelberg Township, North Heidelberg Township, Robesonia Borough and Womelsdorf Borough ordinance null and void, prevent the townships and boroughs from enforcing the illegal ordinance, and grant such other relief as the court finds necessary.

Lower Oxford Township - Chester County

According to the Attorney General's lawsuit, the Lower Oxford Township Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance in March 2004 which defines a "commercial composting processing operation," placing a series of restrictions on mushroom compost preparation.

The lawsuit states that Lower Oxford Township has no legal authority to regulate mushroom compost preparation, which is a normal agricultural operation under state law.  According to the lawsuit, the local ordinance violates the Nutrient Management Act, the Water Resources Planning Act, the Right to Farm Law, the Agricultural Area Security Law and the Municipalities Planning Code.

The Attorney General's lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to declare the Lower Oxford Township ordinance null and void, prevent the township from enforcing the illegal ordinance, and grant such other relief as the court finds necessary.

For more information on the ACRE farm ordinance review law visit the Attorney General's website at www.attorneygeneral.gov

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EDITOR'S NOTE: For copies of the lawsuit contact the Attorney General's Press Office at 717-787-5211 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.