VICTORY! Court denies Simplot’s motion to dismiss lawsuit over illegal feedlot pollution

25th of Jun 2024

A lawsuit challenging decades of unlawful pollution discharges into the Snake River at a Grand View, Idaho Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) will move forward following a decision by a federal court judge. On June 24, 2024, Idaho Chief District Judge David C. Nye upheld the Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit, filed in May 2023, against J.R. Simplot Company and Simplot Livestock Company in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. The Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, with assistance from Advocates for the West and Public Justice, are representing environmental advocacy group Snake River Waterkeeper (SRW) in the case.

Simplot filed a motion to dismiss the case in July 2023, arguing that SRW “failed to describe exactly where, when, and how such alleged illicit discharges occur” and that its claims against the facility were vague and insufficient. The court’s ruling denies Simplot’s motion in its entirety.

“We’re not surprised that the court saw through Simplot’s attempt to cast doubt on the strength of our lawsuit,” said Laird Lucas, Executive Director at Advocates for the West, who is serving as local counsel in the case. “Simplot has ignored federal permitting requirements intended to ensure clean water while continuing to pollute the Snake River with bovine manure.”

“For decades, Simplot’s Grand View feedlot has used the Snake River as a sewer system to move manure downstream and pollute our water,” said Buck Ryan, Executive Director at SRW. “It’s time for Idaho to stop offering zero accountability to one of our nation’s biggest feedlot polluters and prioritize clean water and healthy aquatic habitat. This case is a critical step toward a healthy Snake River future. We are grateful that the Court has seen through Simplot’s flimsy dismissal claims, and we look forward to giving the river a day in court.”

“Simplot’s efforts to dismiss the case have utterly failed,” said Charlie Tebbutt of Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt. “While they succeeded in delaying the case with an unfounded motion, SRW’s legal team will now move forward to prove the decades-long pollution that has been adding to the demise of salmon in the Snake River.”


Simplot’s Grand View feedlot, located in Idaho’s Snake River canyon approximately 50 miles south of the capitol city of Boise, is one of the largest CAFO in the country, with a holding capacity of up to 150,000 head of cattle. On a typical day, the feedlot is home to a minimum of 65,000 cattle—enough to generate at least 5 million pounds of manure per day. This untreated waste—along with the hormones, antibiotics and pathogens contained within—contributes significantly to the pollution of the Snake River and its tributaries through runoff and over-application of manure to area crop fields.

Over a six-year period, SRW’s team conducted extensive water quality sampling in the Snake River at the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Management Area and other locations downstream of the feedlot. The data clearly shows the Grand View feedlot routinely discharges waste that contains (among other pathogens and pollutants) extremely high levels of fecal coliform and E. Coli bacteria, as well as high levels of nitrate and suspended solids—all of which end up in surface and drinking water.

At Issue

The Snake River is a source of drinking water as well as an important site for recreation and fishing—activities that are threatened by continued agricultural pollution. The river contributes to Idaho’s $3.7 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 45,800 Idahoans and generates $475 million in local, state, and federal tax revenues. But the Snake River—especially the Middle Snake near Grand View—is heavily polluted. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) classifies this stretch of the river as “impaired” for failing to meet water quality standards. It is so polluted with agricultural wastes that toxic algal blooms break out in summer, rendering the river water unsafe to even touch and prompting public health warnings from DEQ.

Federal law under the CWA requires that companies obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for any facility discharging pollutants into a public waterway. Without a permit, discharges violate federal water quality standards and can trigger fines of up to $64,618 per day, per violation. Simplot has been operating its Grand View CAFO without an NPDES permit for decades. Despite being warned in 2012 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that its discharges were unlawful under the CWA, Simplot failed to come into compliance with federal law and obtain an NPDES permit.

Read the Memorandum Decision and Order