The Environmental Protection Commission denies petition to strengthen the factory farm permitting process 

Des Moines, IA – Today, at its monthly meeting, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) voted before a packed crowd to deny a rulemaking petition filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch to strengthen the master matrix – a tool in the factory farm permitting process. At the meeting, the commission received over 1,500 comments in support of the petition and nearly 100 Iowans showed up to tell the nine commissioners to strengthen the fifteen-year-old scoring system.

“I feel betrayed by the Environmental Protection Commission for voting against the people of Iowa today and deciding to do nothing to improve the factory farm permitting process,” said Rosie Partridge, CCI member from Sac County. “It is clear that the DNR and the EPC lack the political will to stand up to the factory farm industry and make these much-needed improvements for thousands of Iowans. Shame on them!”

Despite 17% of Iowa counties sending Letters of Support for the petition and/or passing resolutions that call for more protections from the factory farm industry, none of the eight commissioners present today voted to move forward with the rulemaking petition.

The denial was based on a recommendation by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the agency overseen by the EPC. Rather than responding comprehensively to the detailed petition, the DNR cherry-picked just a few proposals to justify denying the entire petition outright – even though the department could have given its own revisions and recommendations on the proposal.

“This vote against strengthening the master matrix is a vote for increasing Big Ag’s profits at the expense of Iowans’ health and environment. The DNR clearly lacks the political will to fix its broken regulations, but we will continue to fight for commonsense regulations to hold factory farms accountable and protect rural communities,” said Tarah Heinzen, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch.

The master matrix is supposed to provide a comprehensive review of environmental and community risks, allowing counties to recommend denial of facilities that will have harmful impacts. But the matrix developed by the DNR has proven so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp: Applicants only need to satisfy enough of the listed criteria to obtain 50 percent of the available points – an “F” by most standards. DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied since the master matrix was created in 2002.

The petition asked for:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more points to obtain a permit;
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the master matrix every single year;
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution;
  • New criteria that consider more environmental factors, such as unique topography and existing water pollution impairments;
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits; and
  • Increased separation distances from things like schools, homes, public use areas, wells, etc.

“My private well is a perfect example of why we need to strengthen the master matrix. In just three years, my well’s nitrate level has risen from 8 parts per million to 12, and this summer it tested at 19, almost double the federal safe drinking water standard,” said Janis Elliott, CCI member from Warren County. “Over 300,000 Iowans rely on private wells. How many of us are drinking poison?”

Meeting attendees vowed to continue pressuring the EPC, DNR, Governor Reynolds, and the Iowa Legislature to crack down on the factory farm industry and finally address Iowa’s growing water crisis. Following the EPC meeting, CCI members delivered letters to Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, and Governor Reynolds putting them on notice to take action during the 2018 legislative session.

“We won’t stop fighting the corporate cronyism that pollutes Iowa’s water. Today was only the beginning,” said Nick Schutt, farmer and CCI member from Hardin County. “To fix the problem, we need to hold our elected officials accountable and make sure they stand with the people of Iowa. Governor Reynolds and Iowa legislators, we are putting you on notice. We will see you in January!”

The citizen letters demanded:

  • a moratorium on new and expanding factory farm construction;
  • local control over the siting of factory farms;
  • mandatory – not voluntary – regulations to clean up our water;
  • tough enforcement of existing regulations; and
  • a plan to make industrial ag pay to clean up the $5 billion pollution problem it has created.

“It’s clear – the master matrix is broken. In the face of more inaction by Iowa DNR, it is the duty of Iowa’s elected officials to stand with everyday people,” the letters read. “We need a farm and food system that works for farmers, workers, eaters and our environment  – not just industrial ag’s bottom line.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics and polluters. CCI has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years. Follow us on Twitter at @iowacci

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

 

Learn more

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

On Monday, Sept. 18, the Environmental Protection Commission  the “citizen” board that oversees the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  is set to vote on our rule-making petition to strengthen the factory farm permitting process.

The petition asks for common sense changes to the outdated Master Matrix – a tool included in factory farm applications.

These changes are based on the experiences of and conversations with thousands of everyday Iowans who want to protect their air, water, and quality of life and supported by over 2,000 petition signers. 

>> BUT, late last week, we learned that Iowa DNR’s leadership is passing the buck and recommending denial of the petition we filed with our friends at Food & Water Watch.

Does reading that make you as mad as me?

Join us Monday morning to pressure the EPC to vote with the people, not the factory farm industry. RSVP here.

This fight is far from over.

The nine EPC members can vote with Brandstad/Reynolds’ industry-loving DNR, or they can vote with everyday Iowans. That’s why we need to pack the room with lots and lots of people!

Can you help us show up strong for clean water at the Environmental Protection Commission meeting Monday morning?

When: Monday, September 18, from 9AM to 12PM
Where: Iowa State Capitol, Room 116 (1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines)
Register: Click here to RSVP today

Shame on the DNR for trying to kick the can down the road. County supervisors from seventeen counties have also demanded action to address Iowa’s factory farm and clean water crises.

Iowans can’t afford to wait any longer!

Erica and the Iowa CCI crew

Learn more

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

TWEET and LIKE to stand up for a Clean Water Iowa!

Last week, we learned that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is recommending denial of the formal rulemaking petition filed by Iowa CCI and Food & Water Watch to finally strengthen the Master Matrix.

While their recommendation comes as no surprise, we are disappointed and angry that the agency sworn to protect Iowa’s people and environment has chosen to pass the buck. Their decision to deny commonsense water protections signals that the DNR is not truly invested in making sure our communities are adequately protected from the factory farm industry.

We proposed a Master Matrix that is more than just an automatic pass. But it’s clear that DNR wants to ensure this tool remains a rubber stamp for corporate ag.

DNR cherry-picked just a few items in the petition to justify denying it outright, while ignoring everything else. And in their response, DNR completely failed to even mention that the factory farm industry has expanded exponentially since the Master Matrix was created 15 years ago and is a major contributor to Iowa’s water crisis.

Here’s our rebuttal to DNR’s weak excuses: 

  1. DNR says our proposed Master Matrix is not feasible for the industry to pass. We disagree. Our petition is feasible because it is “capable of being done or carried out” – which DNR even acknowledged in its review.
  2. DNR says we’re demanding too much by asking them to select appropriate separation distances. This excuse is unacceptable. Protecting our natural resources is their job.
  3. DNR says certain criteria in our proposal are “improper” – like taking into consideration an applicant’s violation history. Everything that we proposed in the petition is legally possible and justifiable.
  4. Even if DNR disagrees with certain items in our petition, that is no reason to deny it outright. Our proposal is a place to start – DNR could still move forward and offer their own alternatives.
  5. But, because they chose to deny it in whole, DNR is yet again passing the buck and losing out on an opportunity to make changes right now.

This doesn’t mean our fight is over! The ultimate decision rests with the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).

Join us on September 18 to tell the EPC to vote with the people and strengthen the Master Matrix. 

We need to show up strong to tell the DNR, EPC, Governor Kim Reynolds, and our state legislature that we’re sick and tired of the factory farm industry running roughshod over Iowa.

When: Monday, September 18 @ 9 AM
Where: Iowa State Capitol, Room 116 (1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines)
RSVP: Click here!

Learn more

 

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Click the link below to download a copy of the Wayne County petition to stop Iowa Select and any other factory farms that propose to build in the area.

Wayne County Petition

Contact Jess at 515-282-0484 to find out who to submit the petitions to in your area.  Thanks!

On August 15, over 30 Iowans attended the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, urging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to grant a formal rulemaking petition submitted last month by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch to strengthen the master matrix, and deny proposed factory farms until the application process is improved. The DNR is currently reviewing the petition and has until September 16 to either grant or deny it.

So far, four county boards of supervisors have sent the DNR Letters of Support for the petition: Butler, Dickinson, Polk, and Johnson counties. This is in addition to fourteen counties that have already passed separate resolutions or sent letters calling on the DNR to strengthen the master matrix and/or suspend the construction of new/expanding factory farms.

>>>> Take action! Call your county supervisors and ask them to send DNR a Letter of Support for our petition. Find contact information for your supervisors here.

“Does the Iowa farmer actually feed the world? And if they’re actually feeding the world, are they poisoning it, too, with the chemicals they put on the ground and the antibiotics they put in the feed?” said James Berge, CCI member and landowner in Kensett. “We need you to take a step in the right direction by strengthening the Master Matrix.”

Created fifteen years ago by the legislature, the master matrix has failed to live up to the promise of giving communities a greater voice in the siting of factory farms and protections from the pollution they create. It has proven so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp: Applicants only need to satisfy enough of the listed criteria to obtain 50 percent of the available points – an “F” by most standards. DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied.

“I’ve been drinking poisoned water, and I don’t know for how long,” said Janis Elliot, CCI member from Avon, who discovered last week that her drinking water is contaminated with nitrates at 19 parts per million (ppm) – 9 ppm over the EPA’s safe drinking water standard. “Our legislature isn’t protecting us, and you’re the Environmental Protection Commission. I don’t feel like you’re protecting me, and I don’t know what to do.”

Citizens from Worth County also attended the EPC meeting to ask the DNR to deny an influx of seven new factory farms in their community.

“Worth County is the jewel and the crown of Iowa and we don’t have many CAFOs. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way,” said Edith Haenel, CCI member from Northwood who lives one mile from a proposed factory farm and has epilepsy that is triggered by air pollutants emitted by factory farms. “Your job is to protect Iowans – not moneyed interests.”

The petition proposals include:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more of the possible points to obtain a permit.
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the master matrix every year.
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution.
  • New criteria that consider factors currently unaddressed by the matrix, such as karst topography, existing water pollution impairments, and water quality monitoring.
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits.
  • Changes to strengthen existing criteria, such as increased separation distances from schools, homes, public use areas, waterways, and wells.

Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms, and more than 3,000 of these are large enough to be subject to the matrix by counties that adopt it. These factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure each year, and its disposal has widespread impacts on Iowa’s waterways and communities. The state’s latest impaired waters list shows that 750 waterbodies – over half of those tested – are impaired. The majority of these impairments are caused by E. coli bacteria and other pollutants associated with manure. Given the statehouse’s ongoing failure to address Iowa’s water quality crisis, DNR must do the next best thing and use its existing authority to strengthen the master matrix.

>>> Call your county supervisors today and ask them to support the petition to strengthen the Master Matrix! Find contact information for your supervisors here.

 

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you want a food and agriculture system that puts farmers, workers, eaters, and our environment before corporate profits? 

Join us Saturday morning, August 5, to lift up that vision for key decision makers like Gov. Reynolds, Senators Grassley and Ernst, new U.S. Secretary of Ag Sonny Purdue, and national press.

Why this Saturday?

That’s when Iowa’s self-appointed political kingmaker and corporate ag tycoon Bruce Rastetter will host his second “Corporate Ag” Summit in Des Moines. He’ll tout his vision of industrial agriculture and trade policy that puts profits before people and the land.

We need to be there to counter corporate ag’s narrative with our own vision!

JOIN US:

Saturday, August 5 @ 7 AM—12 PM
RSVP here!

WHERE:

Meet at the Iowa CCI Headquarters

(2001 Forest Ave, Des Moines, 50311)

DETAILS:

7:00 am  –  Meet at CCI headquarters

7:30 am  –  Load buses to Summit

7:45 am  –  Rally & Press event
(when we need the most people!)

9:30 am  –  Return to CCI for teach-ins
on our clean energy and clean water campaigns

RSVP today! A big turnout helps inject our vision and values into an event that is sure to get a lot of press coverage. Then share and like using the buttons below to enhance our online presence and spread the word.