TULSA, OKLA. — Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson suggested on June 9 Springfield, Mo.-based Willow Brook Foods Inc., a now-defunct poultry company, got a better deal in settling an environmental lawsuit with the state because it was first to negotiate an agreement, according to The Associated Press. Other firms, however, have been involved in confidential settlement talks with Mr. Edmondson's office "for as long, if not longer, than" the smaller company, one poultry company spokesman responded.

"There is a time-honored premium for being early to the settlement table," Mr. Edmondson said on June 9.

Initially one of the 13 companies named in Oklahoma's 2005 environmental lawsuit alleging that the over-application of poultry litter is polluting the Illinois River watershed, Willow Brook recently proposed to pay $120,000 to settle — an agreement that has been challenged by the 12 other poultry companies named in the lawsuit.

The poultry companies are asking Mr. Edmondson for an explanation on how the monetary figure was determined and who will decide how any money paid in the settlement would be spent. Mr. Edmondson would not reveal how much the premium was and added he was surprised at the reaction by the other poultry companies on the settlement.