Weather, Insufficient DNR Funding and Lack Of Regulation Show Need for a 180 on Factory Farm Policy and Enforcement

A trifecta of problems within the factory farm industry have led to one of the largest threats to Iowa’s water in recent years, Iowa CCI members say.  Weather, the ever-growing quantity of manure being dumped untreated onto Iowa’s land and the lack of regulation of the entire industry shows that the amount of manure produced in Iowa is too much for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our land and water to handle.

Weather

Weather is creating crisis on the frontlines of the factory farm manure pollution problem.  Iowa had unusually high rainfall and early freezing temperatures this year which delayed factory farmers from spreading manure in October and November.  Many factory farms knife-in the manure, a practice that injects the manure into the ground to limit the amount that could runoff into Iowa’s waters.  With the early freeze, DNR sent out a press release last week with instructions on how to get an emergency exemption to spread the manure without knifing it in.

Spreading manure on frozen ground increases the chance of runoff and pollution because the manure is less likely to be absorbed into the ground and is more likely to run into tile lines that are direct pathways to our water.  Last week Des Moines Water Works reported that high levels of Nitrates in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers may force them to turn on the $7,000-a-day Nitrate removal machine – which is unheard of in November.

CCI members believe the 11 manure spills that occurred in October and the massive amounts of manure being spread on frozen ground this year are a contributing factor to the high nitrate levels seen in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

“What DNR is saying is basically we’re giving you all a free pass to pollute our water this season,” said Barb Kalbach, 3rd generation family farmer in Stuart.  “This is Iowa, we know temperatures fluctuate and with climate change these unusual weather changes will become more and more frequent.  DNR must come up with another solution other than granting hundreds of emergency exemptions to dump manure right into our water.  DNR needs to say Iowa cannot handle this much manure and we need to rethink how we produce pork in Iowa before we become the cesspool of the world.”

Factory farm construction continues to expand across Iowa, adding to the 10 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure already produced and spread untreated on Iowa’s farm land.  Throughout the spring and summer Iowans across the state have organized to stop new factory farms from infiltrating their communities, with success at the local County Board of Supervisor level.  However, the DNR has overturned nearly every Supervisor recommendation and allowed the factory farms to build.

Insufficient Funding

Every factory farm is required to submit an updated Manure Management Plan (MMP) to the Department of Natural Resources annually and a full MMP update every four years.

With limited funding and lack of an adequate inspection staff this means the 8,500 MMPs are going basically unchecked by the DNR.  MMPs are required by the DNR to make sure factory farmers are not over-applying manure on fields, spreading manure in environmentally unsafe areas and to make sure factory farmers are using proper equipment and procedures when applying manure.

“There is no way that the inspectors can respond to manure spills, inspect 8,500 factory farms, review new or expanding factory farm applications,  and inspect all 8,500 MMPs. It’s just not possible and the consequence of this is the increased pollution of our water,” said Kalbach. “In the 2013 legislative session we pushed for funding for 13 additional inspectors and the DNR said they only needed five.  This shows the DNR doesn’t grasp the severity of our manure pollution problem.”

Lack of Regulation

Finally, DNR has proven to Iowa that they cannot address Iowa’s water crisis because they are too heavily entrenched with factory farm industry insiders.  CCI members have highlighted 10 of the worst manure spills in the past year help the DNR start issuing Clean Water Act permits.  DNR has still not made any meaningful changes in the way they handle manure spills, issue permits, or issue fines and penalties.

“We’re seeing massive manure spills that pollute our water, kill thousands of fish and other aquatic life and take up massive amounts of time and resources of the DNR inspectors, yet they get away with little to no fines at all.  DNR still hasn’t issued any Clean Water act permits to these egregious factory farms,” said Larry Ginter, retired family farmer from Rhodes.  “The DNR says they won’t issue Clean Water Act permits if a factory farm can prove they have fully remedied the problem.  These factory farms have had three, four or sometimes even five spills.  Isn’t it obvious they can’t and haven’t remedied the problem?”

CCI members say this trifecta of problems highlights the need for a dramatic change at the DNR to get a grasp on the 10 billion gallons of manure already produced and spread on the land in Iowa.

“The truth will be in the numbers come March or April 2015 when the DNR releases the new number of polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Ginter.  “We’ve seen an increase in polluted waterways every year since they started keeping track and we expect nothing different this year because the DNR isn’t doing anything about pollution.”

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 758 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

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Factory farm proposing to build near you? Have concerns about an existing facility? We can work with you and your community to fight back and stand up for clean air and water and your quality of life.

 

Weather, Insufficient DNR Funding and Lack Of Regulation Show Need for a 180 on Factory Farm Policy and Enforcement 

Des Moines, IA.  A trifecta of problems within the factory farm industry have led to one of the largest threats to Iowa’s water in recent years, Iowa CCI members say.  Weather, the ever-growing quantity of manure being dumped untreated onto Iowa’s land and the lack of regulation of the entire industry shows that the amount of manure produced in Iowa is too much for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our land and water to handle.

 

Weather

Weather is creating crisis on the frontlines of the factory farm manure pollution problem.  Iowa had unusually high rainfall and early freezing temperatures this year which delayed factory farmers from spreading manure in October and November.  Many factory farms knife-in the manure, a practice that injects the manure into the ground to limit the amount that could runoff into Iowa’s waters.  With the early freeze, DNR sent out a press release last week with instructions on how to get an emergency exemption to spread the manure without knifing it in.

 

Spreading manure on frozen ground increases the chance of runoff and pollution because the manure is less likely to be absorbed into the ground and is more likely to run into tile lines that are direct pathways to our water.  Last week Des Moines Water Works reported that high levels of Nitrates in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers may force them to turn on the $7,000-a-day Nitrate removal machine – which is unheard of in November.

 

CCI members believe the 11 manure spills that occurred in October and the massive amounts of manure being spread on frozen ground this year are a contributing factor to the high nitrate levels seen in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

 

“What DNR is saying is basically we’re giving you all a free pass to pollute our water this season,” said Barb Kalbach, 3rd generation family farmer in Stuart.  “This is Iowa, we know temperatures fluctuate and with climate change these unusual weather changes will become more and more frequent.  DNR must come up with another solution other than granting hundreds of emergency exemptions to dump manure right into our water.  DNR needs to say Iowa cannot handle this much manure and we need to rethink how we produce pork in Iowa before we become the cesspool of the world.”

 

Factory farm construction continues to expand across Iowa, adding to the 10 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure already produced and spread untreated on Iowa’s farm land.  Throughout the spring and summer Iowans across the state have organized to stop new factory farms from infiltrating their communities, with success at the local County Board of Supervisor level.  However, the DNR has overturned nearly every Supervisor recommendation and allowed the factory farms to build.

 

Insufficient Funding

Every factory farm is required to submit an updated Manure Management Plan (MMP) to the Department of Natural Resources annually and a full MMP update every four years.

 

With limited funding and lack of an adequate inspection staff this means the 8,500 MMPs are going basically unchecked by the DNR.  MMPs are required by the DNR to make sure factory farmers are not over-applying manure on fields, spreading manure in environmentally unsafe areas and to make sure factory farmers are using proper equipment and procedures when applying manure.

 

“There is no way that the inspectors can respond to manure spills, inspect 8,500 factory farms, review new or expanding factory farm applications,  and inspect all 8,500 MMPs. It’s just not possible and the consequence of this is the increased pollution of our water,” said Kalbach. “In the 2013 legislative session we pushed for funding for 13 additional inspectors and the DNR said they only needed five.  This shows the DNR doesn’t grasp the severity of our manure pollution problem.”

 

Lack of Regulation

Finally, DNR has proven to Iowa that they cannot address Iowa’s water crisis because they are too heavily entrenched with factory farm industry insiders.  CCI members have highlighted 10 of the worst manure spills in the past year help the DNR start issuing Clean Water Act permits.  DNR has still not made any meaningful changes in the way they handle manure spills, issue permits, or issue fines and penalties.

 

“We’re seeing massive manure spills that pollute our water, kill thousands of fish and other aquatic life and take up massive amounts of time and resources of the DNR inspectors, yet they get away with little to no fines at all.  DNR still hasn’t issued any Clean Water act permits to these egregious factory farms,” said Larry Ginter, retired family farmer from Rhodes.  “The DNR says they won’t issue Clean Water Act permits if a factory farm can prove they have fully remedied the problem.  These factory farms have had three, four or sometimes even five spills.  Isn’t it obvious they can’t and haven’t remedied the problem?”

 

CCI members say this trifecta of problems highlights the need for a dramatic change at the DNR to get a grasp on the 10 billion gallons of manure already produced and spread on the land in Iowa.

 

“The truth will be in the numbers come March or April 2015 when the DNR releases the new number of polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Ginter.  “We’ve seen an increase in polluted waterways every year since they started keeping track and we expect nothing different this year because the DNR isn’t doing anything about pollution.”

 

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 758 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

 

Iowa CCI 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.

 

 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the precedent-setting Work Plan Agreement between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA) for factory farms in Iowa.

The DNR’s Annual Report issued yesterday shows that when it comes to protecting Iowans and our waterways from one of the biggest DNR 1-YR workplan report cardDNR 1-YR workplan report cardsources of pollution in the state, the DNR still refuses to take its job seriously.

The DNR failed to meet four objectives of the Work Plan: inspections, issuing Clean Water Act permits, issuing finesDNR 1-YR workplan report cardDNR 1-YR workplan report cardDNR 1-YR workplan report card and penalties and providing information to the public.

Check out the report card we made for the DNR: http://iowacci.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/DNR-1-YR-workplan-report-card4.jpg

The Work Plan contains vague and poorly defined goals related to DNR’s oversight of the factory farm industry, but it does represent an important first step in making the industry finally comply with the Federal CWA.

The DNR’s Annual Report shows an agency taking full advantage of the lack of clarity in the Work Plan to continue its long history of avoiding regulating this highly-polluting industry. In the few instances where the Work Plan goals are clearly defined, like with factory farm evaluation and inspection requirements, the DNR cannot even meet its minimal mandates. Click here to view the DNR/EPA Work Plan.

The DNR agreed to inspect and evaluate twenty percent of Iowa’s 8,500+ factory farm facilities during the first year of the Work Plan to determine which operations need permits. The report released yesterday stated they have only completed fourteen percent of the required inspections.

“How many times do we have to say we told you so? We’ve been saying for 7 years that the DNR is failing to do its job and sadly we’re proven right.” Said Larry Ginter, CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa. “We told the DNR they needed more than 7 new inspectors to achieve its goal of inspecting twenty percent of all factory farms per year but Governor Branstad and DNR Director Gipp insisted 7 new inspectors was enough.”

The Work Plan also required the DNR to “timely issue [CWA] permits that meet federal requirements to all CAFOs that DNR determines discharge to waters of the U.S.”

Since the Work Plan was signed on September 11, 2013 there have been at least 49 documented manure spills in Iowa, yet the Annual Report admits that ‘no permits were issued as a result of requirements from a Work Plan inspection’. None of the factory farms that had manure spills received a CWA permit either. DNR officials have said they doubt they’ll issue a single permit to a hog factory farm.

“In late August, the Clinton Vos factory farm in Marshall County had a massive manure spill that could have been prevented if the DNR had been doing its job,” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer from Dexter. “This factory farm has not been inspected since 2006 and the spill went on for a week before a neighbor reported it to the DNR. This is unacceptable; the DNR needs to issue polluters a permit.”

The Work Plan also requires DNR “to implement an enforcement program that ensures penalties are sought in accordance with DNR’s [Enforcement Management System] and creates a stronger deterrent to noncompliance”.

However, since the Work Plan was signed only 11 of the 49 factory farm polluters have received a fine or penalty, sending a clear message to industry that it’s cheaper to keep polluting than to fix the problem.

DNR is also doing a poor job of keeping the public informed of its Work Plan progress as required. So far the Work Plan progress updates have been vague and contain very little real information.

“DNR should post information about every inspection, manure spill and enforcement action taken.” Said Kalbach. “Without this information how is the public supposed to know if the DNR is just checking off boxes or taking the Work Plan seriously?”

“This Work Plan will only be successful if it leads to real oversight of factory farm pollution in Iowa. That means serious inspections, strong permits, and enforcement actions that ensure it doesn’t pay to pollute. DNR hasn’t shown that it takes permitting seriously, and EPA should step in and conduct independent investigations of Iowa manure spills,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.

CCI members are calling on the DNR to strengthen the Clean Water Act implementation with 4 demands.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 741 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

Use your voice to let the DNR know this is unacceptable. Share the report card on Facebook – just click through for a ready to go post!

More of a Twitter fan? Here are some tweets to use!

1 yr-anniversary of EPA Work-Plan: @iowadnr failed to meet all 4 requirements.
Is that why we have 630 polluted waterways? #cleanwaterfight

.@iowadnr failed all 4 requirements of EPA Clean Water Act Work Plan. You can work for a better grade – here’s how!

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up!

 

 

Learn more

 

Join the Fight

Factory farm proposing to build near you? Have concerns about an existing facility? We can work with you and your community to fight back and stand up for clean air and water and your quality of life.

 

DNR Fails To Collect More Than $400,000 In Fines and Penalties For Environmental Violations, Some Going Back 10 Years

18 factory farms owe state of Iowa nearly $60,000 in uncollected fines

 The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has failed to collect $401,154 in unpaid fines and penalties from industrial and agribusiness operations who have violated state environmental laws, including $59,204 in uncollected fines from 18 factory farms.

A DNR spreadsheet obtained by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement documenting these uncollected fees and fines is available here.

“We will never be able to clean up Iowa’s waters if it continues to be cheaper to pollute than to protect,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “We need to start holding these polluters accountable and that means tough regulations, tough inspections, and tough fines when there is a violation.”

“If I got a speeding ticket I’d be required to pay it or lose my license.  If a factory farm fails to pay their fine, they should be closed down, too.”

“$400,000 would provide the DNR an additional inspector for 3 years to help with the 5,000 inspections required by the Clean Water Act,” said Ginter.

In addition to the unpaid fines, the number of manure spills charged with a fine or penalty dropped significantly from 2000 to 2013 DNR records show.

In 2001, 80 percent of all manure spills or other environmental violations received a fine.  Now, less than 15 percent of manure spills or other environmental violations receive a fine.  CCI members say this shows the lack of will of the DNR to crack down on polluters and clean up Iowa’s waters.

spills charged with penalty

“Our water continues to become more polluted, we have an increasing number of manure spills, an inadequate number of inspectors and factory farms are getting away with a slap on the wrist for polluting our water,”  said Barb Kalbach, CCI member and 4th generation farmer from Dexter. “This system isn’t working.  Governor Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp aren’t working to clean up our water.  In fact, they’re making it worse.”

With 728 manure spills since 1995 and 630 polluted waterways in Iowa, CCI members say this problem also shows that the current Clean Water Act rule, being considered by the Environmental Protection Commission in August, needs to be strengthen or the DNR will continue business as usual.

“There needs to be a three strikes and you’re out provision and every factory farm polluter needs a Clean Water Act permit,” stated Kalbach.

On August 19, the Branstad appointed EPC will be voting on precedent setting rules to implement the Clean Water Act for factory farms in Iowa.  CCI members say the rule is weak and would continue business as usual.  They plan on attending the EPC meeting in mass to demand the rule be strengthened.

REVOLVING DOOR GREASES THE WHEELS:  Corporate PR Firm LS2Group With Deep Ties To The Branstad Administration Joins Energy Transfer Partners, Three State Agencies, For “Informal Meeting” On Bakken Oil Pipeline Proposal 

Email communication between Transfer Energy Partners and Iowa Utilities Board shows state agency may have referred the Fortune 500 oil corporation to the notorious public relations firm for assistance navigating permitting process

 

A former lobbyist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship who now works for a corporate public relations firm with significant ties to the Branstad Administration joined an oil corporation and three state agencies at an “informal meeting” on a proposed Iowa Bakken Oil Pipeline, records provided to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement by the Iowa Utilities Board show.

Susan Fenton, LS2Group’s Director of Government Affairs, who worked for four years as a legislative liason for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, joined Energy Transfer Partners, the Iowa Utilities Board, the Attorney General’s office, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on July 29 for an “informal meeting” on the proposed bakken oil pipeline “to discuss the informational meeting and permit petition processes and requirements,” meeting notes show.

Fenton has also worked for Iowa House Republicans, including the speaker of the house and majority leader, as well as on re-election campaigns for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley.

Email records also indicate that the Iowa Utilities Board may have actually referred LS2Group to Transfer Energy Partners for assistance navigating the state’s permitting process.  On July 11, Stephen Veatch, Senior Director of Certificates and Tariffs at Transfer Energy Partners, sent an email to Don Stursma, Manager, Safety and Engineering Section at the Iowa Utilities Board, which reads, “Don – can you provide me the firms that are familiar with the IUB permitting process that you would recommend?”

“What the Iowa Utilities Board calls an informal meeting we would call a classic case of the revolving door greasing the wheels,” said Ross Grooters, an Iowa CCI member from Pleasant Hill.  “State agencies should be working to serve the public interest, not bending over backwards to help Big Oil.”

LS2Group is a corporate gun-for-hire whose senior leadership team includes vice president Jeff Boyeink, former chief of staff for Governor Branstad.  Last April, LS2Group was contracted by the American Petroleum Institute and an API front group called the Iowa Energy Forum to bring General James Jones to Drake University campus to promote the Keystone XL pipeline.  LS2Group also worked for Tim Pawlenty’s campaign during the 2012 Iowa Caucus season.

The proposed Iowa Bakken oil pipeline, if built, would transport crude, hydrofracked bakken oil from North Dakota through Iowa and eventually down into the Gulf of Mexico.  Transfer Energy Partners, a Texas-based Fortune 500 company, says they can transport as much as 420,000 barrels per day, but that the project will probably average about 320,000 barrels of crude per day.

In July, the corporation sent letters to property owners along their preferred route cutting through 17 Iowa counties asking permission to survey land.  The next step will be informational hearings in those counties, preceded by a 30-day notice, after which the Texas-based corporation may formally file a pipeline permit with the state, kicking off a public input process.  Transfer Energy Partners told the Iowa Utilities Board they hope to formally apply for a permit by the fourth quarter of this year.  The corporation cannot negotiate easements with landholders until after the 17 informational meetings are held.

According to Iowa Code 479B.8, to grant a permit the Iowa Utilities Board must determine that “the proposed services will promote the public convenience and necessity” and may impose “terms, conditions, and restrictions as to location and route.”

Iowa Utilities Board members are appointed by the Iowa governor, and the agency is part of the state’s executive branch.  Iowa CCI members this week launched a petition and Facebook page calling on Governor Branstad to use his administration’s authority under Iowa Code 479B.8 to stop the pipeline from being built.

The petition reads:  “Governor Branstad, the Iowa Bakken Oil Pipeline will be a climate disaster.  Building it could harm Iowa’s water quality, contribute to catastrophic climate change, and threaten the property rights of everyday Iowans across the state.  You must find that this pipeline is not in the public interest and reject it.”

Governor Branstad’s office has been briefed on the issue.  Ben Hammes, Branstad’s Director of Boards and Commissions, sent an email in July to the Iowa Utilities Board asking for information on the proposal.

Iowa CCI members have been contacted by some property owners along the proposed oil pipeline route and copies of the letters sent to them by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Transfer Energy Partners, is included in the document cache.

Iowa CCI 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.   

225+ Iowans Picket Terrace Hill, Demand Branstad Sign Clean Water Fight Pledge To Crack Down on Factory Farm Manure Pollution

Iowa CCI members say Iowa needs local control of factory farm siting and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force the industry to play by tougher standards or get shut down

Chanting: “Whose House?  Our House!”  and “Put People First!” – more than 225 everyday Iowans marched up Terrace Hill July 12 to the governor’s mansion to demand Governor Terry Branstad stop kowtowing to corporate ag and start cracking down on factory farm manure pollution.

The crowd, all members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), demanded Branstad support local control of factory farm siting, and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force factory farms to obtain federal permits with tougher environmental standards or get shut down with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

The large crowd of family farmers, retired teachers, church pastors, students, and others also built a giant display of cardboard “factory farms”, a “river”, and “manure spills”, along with big signs that read “They Dump It.  You Drink It.  We Won’t Stop Til They Clean It Up.  Governor Branstad, Sign the Pledge.  We Want A Governor Who Will Clean It Up.”

Rosie Partridge, a CCI member from rural Wall Lake in Sac county, said she was there to ask Governor Branstad to sign a giant “Clean Water Fight Pledge” card that read “I pledge to fight for Iowa’s right to clean water and put people before profits, politics, and polluters.”

Partridge testified:  “Governor Branstad, during your long terms in office, you have rolled out the welcome mat for out-of-state corporate factory farms to come in to Iowa and run independent family farmers out of business.  You have vetoed money to clean up our rivers, lakes, and streams, and packed the Iowa DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission with factory farm insiders.  You have fought to put big money corporate ag lobbyists inside Clean Water Act negotiations between government regulators, and consistently put the interests of your political donors ahead of the interests of all Iowans and the environment we depend on.”

The Iowa DNR’s EPC commission will vote on draft Clean Water Act rules in August.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

Iowa CCI 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.   

Iowa CCI members held their annual statewide convention in Des Moines July 12 headlined by Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.