Holdner is seeking compensation for financial injuries, punitive damages, attorney fees and other costs he incurred as a result of his conviction. He also is seeking an injunction prohibiting the state departments of environmental quality or agriculture from regulating his operation, absent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval.
Holdner asserts in the complaint “the federal Environmental Protection Agency has never properly granted authority to the state of Oregon” to regulate confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Absent the authority, Holdner asserts, “Oregon may not administer an independent state-based water pollution control program related to confined or concentrated animal feed operations.”
Holdner’s problems with the state date to 2007, when Oregon Department of Agriculture officials said his Dutch Canyon Road Ranch violated state laws regulating water pollution.
Officials said he needed a CAFO permit, a requirement for operations that confine animals for a portion of the year and include a waste-water treatment facility.
Holdner’s 500 cow-calf pair operation includes a 40,000-gallon tank that capture’s water and liquid manure in storms. The mixture is applied to nearby fields when the tank fills to capacity.
Holdner said he constructed the system solely to prevent storm water from entering the creek, and that the system works. Holdner did not comply with the state’s orders to alter his system or obtain a CAFO permit.
Ray Jaindl, administrator of ODA’s natural resources division, said the system, constructed in the 1970s, has the potential to work, but that Holdner’s management of the system was faulty.
Because the tank rapidly filled to capacity in storms, Holdner was forced to apply the mixture to saturated fields, which could not absorb the manure-water mixture, Jaindl said.
Jaindl said investigators “documented discharge” running from the fields into South Scappoose Creek, which runs through Holdner’s approximately 100-acre property.
In the complaint, Holdner claims investigators documented that the liquid “would likely flow to and enter South Scappoose Creek.” But, he said, investigators never documented the liquid entering the creek. Also, he said, subsequent tests indicating the creek had high levels of bacteria never identified the source of the bacteria.
The Scappoose area, he said, provides habitat for thousands of geese and other wildlife that could be responsible for the high bacteria counts.
Last February, Holder was convicted in Columbia County Circuit Court of 27 counts of water pollution, including two felony counts. A month later, he was sentenced to five days in jail, fined $300,000 and told to dispose of his cattle and cattle-related business.
Holdner, who is a Portland accountant, said the order forced him to sell cattle at a reduced rate, costing him tens of thousands of dollars. To date, he has sold about half of his 500 head, he said.
Also, he said, the order to cease his operation cost him the amortized value of his structures. He’s also spent tens of thousands of dollars on attorney fees, he said.
The felony conviction has also complicated efforts to renew his CPA license, Holdner said. He is licensed in Washington and Oregon.
Holdner said he was spared jail time because of overcrowding at Columbia County Jail. He was booked and released after five hours, he said.
He has not paid the fine or discontinued his operation, he said, although he is in the process of selling the remaining 250 cow-calf pairs he still runs on his Scappoose property.