DES MOINES, Iowa – Alleging that the August 19 vote by Iowa DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission was illegal, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund last Wednesday filed a lawsuit in federal district court. At question is whether or not five sitting EPC members appointed by Governor Branstad had a financial stake in passing what State Policy Organizing Director Adam Mason with the Iowa CCI Action Fund calls a weak rule.
“If the rule had been strengthened, these five commissioners would face tougher rules and regulations on their farming operations,” explains Mason, “potentially cutting into their profits, and would be forced to apply for NPDES permits, or Clean Water Act operating permits, which there is a cost associated with. So they were, in our opinion, voting based on their own financial stakes.”
Tuesday’s vote centered on a proposed rule governing waste discharge permits from concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, under the Clean Water Act. Last year EPA and Iowa DNR signed a work plan that brings state efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act more in line with federal rules. The proposed rule as passed on Tuesday leaves Iowa DNR to determine which CAFOs must apply for a discharge permit and when. Mason maintains the rule didn’t go far enough.
“We were in support of a stronger rule,” Mason says, “which [would have] mandated that because every factor farm has the potential to discharge, proven by over 730 documented manure spills since 1996; that because every factory farm has the potential to discharge, every factory farm should have a Clean Water Act operating permit, and [should] play by these stronger environmental standards.”
Prior to the vote Iowa DNR addressed “stronger environmental standards” in a response to comments received before the Tuesday vote; it cited part of the Iowa code requiring the rules be no more stringent than federal regulation in stating that the proposed “stronger environmental standards” would exceed the scope of the rulemaking.
The rule passed by the EPC last Tuesday still must be vetted by a legislative review committee before taking affect on October 22nd.