After three years of negotiations failed, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson prepared to litigate with poultry companies that are polluting his state's waterways. In response, the House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would require the attorney general to get approval from the governor or legislature before filing a lawsuit. The AP reports
If successful, Edmondson--Oklahoma's top legal officer--would be the only attorney general in the nation without independent authority to file lawsuits, a policy the administrator of a national attorneys general group said would erode his authority and set a bad precedent.
"In terms of the office of attorney general and his role in state government, that is really a step backwards," said Lynne Ross, executive director of the National Association of Attorneys General. . . .
Edmondson has threatened to sue Oklahoma poultry producers over alleged pollution of eastern Oklahoma lakes and rivers. The attorney general believes phosphorous and other chemicals in poultry litter applied to land is making nearby waterways murky and giving water a bad taste.
"This has been going on for years. It can cause long-term damage to the soil and to the food chain," Edmondson said. "I think the time will come when people will get infections from swimming in state lakes. I think the time will come when there are no more fish in our lakes or rivers that are polluted by poultry litter," he said.
Even the seven attorneys general who are appointed by a governor, a legislature, or a state supreme court have independent authority to file lawsuits. The bill's author stated, "State policy is the responsibility of the Oklahoma Legislature and we shouldn't do it through the courtroom." Edmondson says the proposed legislation betrays "a fundamental lack of understanding" of what an attorney general does.
(Thanks to Tierney's WeblAG for the pointer.)