Jackie Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the poultry industry, said Wednesday the ruling might bring both sides closer to an out-of-court settlement.
The poultry companies had asked Frizzell to dismiss the lawsuit because Oklahoma didn’t have the authority to seek damages without the Cherokee Nation.
Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods Inc., one of the 12 companies named in the lawsuit, said Wednesday’s ruling proves the motion wasn’t "the ‘legal gimmick’ or ‘scheme’ the attorney general’s office claimed it was.”
More than 55,000 people in Oklahoma and Arkansas work in the poultry industry in one of the largest areas in the U.S. for producing broilers, or birds raised for meat. The watershed that spans the two states has 1,800 poultry houses.
Edmondson claims the estimated 345,000 tons of poultry waste produced there each year has wreaked environmental havoc on the land, as runoff carries bacteria into lakes and streams, threatening the health of tens of thousands of people who boat and camp in the valley every year.