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Outside the North Dakota Supreme Court chambers. John Hageman / Forum News Service

Arguments over planned 9,000-hog farm headed to ND Supreme Court

BISMARCK—Opponents of a hog farm near Buffalo, N.D., will take their case to the state's highest court Thursday, June 22.

The case stems from the North Dakota Department of Health's August 2016 decision to grant a permit to Rolling Green Family Farms for a 9,000-swine factory farm to be built in rural Cass County, about 40 miles west of Fargo. A district court judge affirmed the agency's decision in March, prompting the appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

Arguments are set to begin at 2:45 p.m. Thursday.

The group of landowners appealing the case argue the operation is required to get "a more protective" permit and that the Health Department erred by not reopening the public comment period after the company's "disclosure of significant new information," according to a court brief.

In announcing the approval last year, the Health Department said it had added "conditions" to the permit to address concerns with odors, surface water and groundwater. The department said it received feedback from about 150 people during a public comment period.

A department official said at the time that the permit application complied with their regulations, but neighbors remain concerned.

"After considerable research and consultation, the Concerned Citizens of Buffalo are convinced that environmental problems with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have a direct impact on human health and welfare for communities that contain these large industrial farms," Liane Stout, a Buffalo resident who is a party to the Supreme Court appeal, wrote in a letter to the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead last week. "The only ones who benefit from CAFOs are their CEOs and shareholders, who operate as corporations and live out of state."

Rolling Green is being proposed by Pipestone Holdings, based in southwest Minnesota.

Rolling Green attorney Rob Forward deferred comment to the company Tuesday morning, and Pipestone Holdings Vice President Barry Kerkaert didn't return a voicemail.

Derrick Braaten, the attorney for the appellants, said he's more confident the state Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

"In my experience, if you're going to be successful taking on the state you usually have to get up to the Supreme Court," he said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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