Director Chuck Gipp Ignores Major DNR Concessions

DNR Director Chuck Gipp Should Be Explaining His Agency’s New Enforcement Proposals To The Public, Not Defending A Flawed Commitment to Voluntary Compliance

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Chuck Gipp released a public statement to coincide with his agency’s response to a July 11 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) critical of the state’s factory farm enforcement program.

The DNR was given a mandatory 60-day window by federal authorities to respond to the EPA report and the DNR issued their response on September 11.

But rather than explain the new proposals and promises included in the DNR reply to the people of Iowa, Gipp’s defensive public statement attempts to position his agency in a positive light by defending a series of reforms the DNR only undertook because Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club filed a de-delegation petition in 2007 and in 2011 threatened to sue the EPA if they did not act to bring the Iowa DNR into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

Gipp’s media statement also seems designed to reassure Iowa’s corporate ag industry that the agency’s priority will continue to be compliance, not enforcement.

However, the DNR’s new work plan released September 11 is notable for a number of new proposals and promises, including:

  • New rulemaking beginning November 1, 2012 to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act,
  • Asking the state legislature for a significant funding increase in order to hire 13 new full-time factory farm field staff,
  • Developing a plan to inspect every factory farm in the state of Iowa, and
  • Changing other protocols and procedures to bring Iowa’s program up to par with federal standards.

“You wouldn’t know it by Mr. Gipp’s public spin, but the DNR is actually promising some pretty big things that are going to have a big impact on Iowa’s corporate factory farm industry,” said Lori Nelson, the CCI Board President from Bayard, Iowa.  “Iowa CCI members will believe it when we see it.  We know from past experience that the DNR only stands up to the industry and does its job to protect our air and water quality when they are forced to do so by grassroots people power.”

The July EPA report found that critical elements of Iowa’s program to regulate water pollution from factory farms fail to meet minimum federal requirements.  EPA called on DNR to improve its permitting, inspections, and penalties to comply fully with the federal Clean Water Act.

Iowa currently does not have regulations in place to issue permits to hog factories and other factory farms that illegally discharge pollution into rivers and streams, and EPA further found that DNR does not even have a system in place to identify those facilities that are polluting and require permits.

The EPA report was a response to a nearly five-year-old petition by Iowa CCI, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club, which alleged widespread failures to regulate illegal factory farm discharges and asked EPA to withdraw Iowa’s authority to run the state’s Clean Water Act permitting program.

The petition noted that despite hundreds of illegal manure spills from hog factories in Iowa, no confinements in the state have Clean Water Act permits required of all dischargers.  EPA required DNR to respond to its report by September 11 with a proposed work plan and timeline to bring Iowa’s program up to par.

 

 

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> Read our full take on the DNRs response

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