Members dispute DNR’s claim that the Clean Water Act permitting rule may have a negative impact on jobs and say the Governor’s office and corporate ag lobby groups have had too much influence over the process
The Iowa DNR completed job and fiscal impact statements for a draft Clean Water Act rule on February 19 and have asked Governor Branstad’s office to sign off on the proposed rule by February 26 in order for the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) to formally promulgate the rule for public comment on March 18 at the next monthly EPC meeting.
A copy of the jobs and fiscal impact statements as well as the proposed rule may be read here.
Jobs and fiscal impact statements on proposed rules are required by Executive Order 71, as is “stakeholder input” under Executive Order 80, both signed by Governor Branstad in 2011, but members say the process has rarely received public scrutiny and that the Clean Water Act rule case study gives some rare insight into how the Branstad Administration works with corporate lobby groups to influence draft rules before they are released for public comment.
“Both the stakeholder input process and the jobs and fiscal impact statements appear to have been heavily influenced by the same corporate ag lobby groups who are responsible for our deteriorating water quality and who are adamantly opposed to stronger and more effective public oversight,” said Lori Nelson, board president from Bayard, who is surrounded by more than 5,000 corporate hogs within a half-mile of her rural homestead.
The new DNR documents show that the DNR consulted with corporate ag lobby groups nearly two months before meeting with community and environmental organizations and that the DNR made changes to the proposed rule based on industry feedback but did not make any changes to the proposed rule based on community and environmental input.
“Iowa is only coming into compliance with the Clean Water Act because of more than seven years of organizing by CCI members and our allies the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club,” Nelson said. “The DNR should be prioritizing the voices of impacted communities during the input process, not the factory farm industry that is responsible for causing hundreds of illegal manure spills that have negatively impacted 630 polluted waterways.”
Jobs Impact Statement
Members dispute the DNR’s claim that the proposed Clean Water Act rule may have a “negative job impact on private sector jobs and employment opportunities in the state,” and say that tough Clean Water Act permits that require factory farm polluters to play by stronger rules will have a positive impact on jobs because clean water and quality of life are important factors in economic development.
“Factory farm pollution has a negative impact on job creation in Iowa’s economy and strong new Clean Water Act permitting rules will only help to improve that situation, not make it worse,” Nelson said.
Members also take exception to the DNR’s claim that “the Department anticipates relatively few confinement feeding operations will be required to obtain an NPDES permit,” and say that conclusion is premature before thousands of new inspections are completed.
“It is outrageous that the DNR is promising the governor’s office that they will not permit very many factory farms under the Clean Water Act and this claim strongly suggests that DNR Director Chuck Gipp continues to do everything in his power to protect factory farm polluters from stronger and more effective public oversight,” Nelson said.
Fiscal Impact Statement
The DNR estimates that there will be no fiscal impact to the state of Iowa.
Both the jobs and fiscal impact statements take their monetary figures from the Iowa Farm Bureau and an unnamed “professional engineer” – raising questions about both their accuracy and the due diligence of the DNR to fact-check these claims against other sources and estimates.
“Out-of-state corporations need to suck it up and eat the costs of bringing their factory farms into compliance with the Clean Water Act,” Nelson said. “There’s no question they can afford it, and right now those costs are externalized and paid for by everyday Iowans and our environment, which isn’t right,” Nelson said.
The DNR has proposed six public hearings in Ainsworth, Calmar, Carroll, Des Moines, Mason City, and Spencer, but the dates of the proposed public hearings will not be finalized until the draft rule is officially promulgated at the March 18 EPC meeting.
The draft Clean Water Act rule itself has not been changed since Iowa CCI, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club leaked a draft copy of the proposal weeks ago, and CCI members reiterate their concerns that the proposed rule is weak and gives too much discretion to the DNR to determine which factory farms need permits.
“Every factory farm in Iowa is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off, and every one of them needs a Clean Water Act permit so they are forced to play by stronger rules,” Nelson said.
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