Holt laughs off Democrat’s call for resignation

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini on Friday called on Republican state Rep. Andy Holt to resign over alleged environmental violations at his northwestern Tennessee hog farm.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking up to $177,500 in fines against Holt for discharging a total of more than 860,000 gallons of waste water from lagoons on the farm without the proper permits.

“This kind of blatant disregard for the rules disqualify him for being an effective legislator and he needs to step aside so that his constituents can have an effective and accountable voice at the Capitol,” Mancini said. (Note: The full statement is posted HERE.)

In a telephone interview, Holt laughed off Mancini’s suggestion, saying that he plans to keep his seat in the Legislature and remain an outspoken critic of the EPA and President Barack Obama.

“I imagine they would like me to quit,” said Holt, dismissing the Mancini’s press release as “propaganda.”

Holt, who ceased the hog farm operations in December, stressed that he self-reported the discharges to the state after heavy rainfall had caused the lagoons to overflow. He also noted that the EPA complaint acknowledged that “no actual environmental harm was documented” in connection with the discharge.

Holt said he is still exploring his legal options, but said the EPA complaint was an effort to “bully their way and scare me.”

State records have showed that Holt ran his farm without a permit for nearly three years when he was finally ordered to turn in required permitting paperwork in 2012. While Holt submitted incomplete papers in 2012 and 2013, the state let him keep operating.

A state inspector in 2011 found improperly buried hogs on Holt’s farm and photographed hog waste being pumped from an overflowing lagoon into a nearby creek. But the inspector wrote that an enforcement action had been “discouraged by upper management.”

Both Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and his commissioner of environment and conservation, Bob Martineau, denied that Holt had received special treatment.

The Tennessee Clean Water Network on Friday welcomed the complaint and fine being sought by federal environmental regulators.

“The EPA stepped in where the state failed to do its job,” Renee Hoyos, the Knoxville-based advocacy group’s executive director, said in a release.