Long-Awaited Factory Farm Pollution Work Plan a Good First Step Forward Despite Branstad’s Political Interference

 

Signed DNR/EPA agreement requires on-site inspections for all large factory farms, tougher enforcement standards, and new rules for Clean Water Act permits

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have signed a far-reaching Clean Water Act work plan agreement that will significantly change the way the state inspects, permits, and takes enforcement actions against factory farms.  You can read the final agreement and all related documents and materials on the EPA Region 7 website here:  http://www.epa.gov/region7/water/

Significant work plan requirements include:

  • On-site inspections for all “large” factory farms (more than 1,000 beef cattle or 2,500 hogs) – about 3,200 facilities meet the federal definition of a large factory farm in the state of Iowa, according to DNR records;
  • On-site inspections for some “medium” factory farms (300 – 999 beef cattle or 750-2,499 hogs), if they pose a high risk of water pollution due to recent discharges or exposed manure lagoons in close proximity to waterways;
  • Desktop evaluations for all other medium-sized factory farms  – about 4,800 facilities in Iowa meet the federal definition of a medium-sized factory farm, according to DNR records;
  • New factory farm permit regulations within one year – to bring Iowa’s permit rules into compliance with the Clean Water Act;
  • Strengthen manure application setback requirements within one year – by establishing new separation distances that meet federal law; and
  • Tougher enforcement protocols that broaden the universe of factory farm violations subject to fines and penalties.

The work plan process was initiated by the EPA in response to a 2007 de-delegation petition filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club.  The petition called on EPA to strip the Iowa DNR of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act for its failure to enforce federal law against factory farm polluters.  The petition will remain outstanding during the five-year implementation period.

Iowa Governor Branstad and industry groups pushed for a much weaker agreement that would have only guaranteed on-site inspections for about 500 of the very largest factory farms – those with more than 2,000 beef cattle or 5,000 hogs – but the final agreement requires inspections at at least 3,200 facilities after the petitioners and 17 other organizations demanded on-site inspections for all medium-sized and large factory farms.

The thousands of inspections and assessments DNR must conduct under the new agreement are intended to identify discharging facilities that require Clean Water Act permits.  DNR must complete 20 percent of the total inspections each year.  The work plan agreement also requires DNR to submit a status report in 90 days, 210 days, and annually thereafter.  DNR will file annual reports on its work plan progress, and EPA will continue to assess whether the state is moving towards compliance with the Clean Water Act.  The status reports will be published on DNR’s website.

Representatives of the community-environmental coalition whose petition drove the process for the DNR/EPA agreement hailed the agreement as a significant step towards clean water, but cautioned that they will measure success in the number of Clean Water Act permits DNR actually issues to documented polluters, the strength of enforcement actions against violators going forward, and the change in quality of the Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams.

Iowa CCI member Larry Ginter, an independent family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa, said:

“There’s no question this deal would have been stronger and more effective without the political interference of Governor Branstad and the Iowa Farm Bureau, but at the end of the day, this is a good step forward that lays the groundwork to win even more changes in the future.  This fight is far from over.  We will rigorously monitor the implementation of this agreement and continue to press our demands through rulemaking as well as during the 2014 legislative session.”

Iowa Sierra Club legal counsel Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids said:

“The signed work plan creates a framework that could require corporate confinements to finally get discharge permits, and we hope it will be implemented in a way that effectively penalizes factory farms for polluting our water.”

Environmental Integrity Project legal counsel Tarah Heinzen said:

“This agreement is the critical first step we have been waiting for since EPA found over a year ago that Iowa’s factory farm program is failing.  Strong continued oversight by EPA will be essential to ensuring Iowa adequately inspects and permits polluting facilities that have been let off the hook for years.”

The Iowa DNR and U.S. EPA have been negotiating a work plan agreement to bring the state of Iowa into compliance with the Clean Water Act since EPA released a scathing report in July 2012 finding the DNR’s factory farm program does not meet federal Clean Water Act requirements.  The 2012 investigation report found that DNR:

  • Has failed to issue permits to factory farms when required,
  • Does not have an adequate factory farm inspection program,
  • Frequently fails to act in response to manure spills and other environmental violations,
  • Does not assess adequate fines and penalties when violations occur.

Iowa’s water quality has never been worse than now, with 628 polluted bodies of water, and manure and other fertilizer runoff so high that Des Moines Water Works ran the world’s most expensive nitrate removal system for nearly 90 days this spring and summer, costing 500,000 ratepayers in Central Iowa nearly $900,000.

Two Iowans arrested at Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting in San Francisco 

Family farmer, Latino community organizer among at least 15 arrested at big bank protest in California attended by thousands of people

IowaCCI member, Wells Fargo shareholder, and family farmer Larry Ginter from Rhodes, IA was arrested Tuesday afternoon along with CCI member Ruth Schultz and fifteen other shareholders from across the country after attempting to speak directly to CEO John Stumpf inside the Wells Fargo annual meeting in San Francisco, CA, while thousands of everyday people protested outside.

Ginter, Schultz, and members of National People’s Action wanted Stumpf to account for Wells Fargo’s awful record on tax dodging, home foreclosures, predatory lending, private prison investment, payday lending and factory farm financing, bank bailouts, record profits and lavish CEO bonuses.  Stumpf received $19.8 million in compensation in 2011.

CCI member Larry Ginter's first arrest. At the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting for confronting Wells CEO John Stumpf.

“Stumpf refused to yield the floor so we stood up and spoke out against the big bank’s anti-people agenda and were arrested,” Ginter said.  “It’s pretty bad out there in the rest of America, and Wells Fargo needs to realize that they have a responsibility to make life a lot better for a lot of people.”

Schultz and Ginter were among just 25 protesters who successfully made it into the shareholders’ meeting.  Wells Fargo reportedly turned away hundreds of other legitimate shareholders with grievances against Wells Fargo.  Following their arrest, Ginter and Schultz joined several thousand other protestors outside the shareholders’ meeting.

 

Please LIKE and TWEET if you are proud of Larry, Ruth and the thousands of others confronting Wells Fargo’s CEO today!

Two Iowa CCI members – Larry Ginter, a farmer from Rhodes and Ruth Schultz, CCI Latino project organizer – are en route to San Francisco, Califorina as I type.

They are Wells Fargo shareholders and they will meet up with thousands of others for mass demonstrations and disruptions at Wells Fargo’s annual shareholders meeting.

Read more about the Shareholders meeting action below:

 

99% Power Movement Kicks Off With Massive Actions at Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting

 

2012 will be different than last spring, and the spring before it. This year, there’s a nationally coordinated effort of the 99% to fight back.

April 22, 2012 | Read it online: Alternet.org

Every major bank holds its shareholder meeting in the spring, makingtheir nefarious plans about how to invest the billions they have stolen from us: ranging from mineral extraction in the global south to foreclosures in East Oakland.

But 2012 will be different than last spring, and the spring before it. This year, there’s a nationally coordinated effort of the 99% to fight back. We may not have the money for our own strategy meetings in fancy boardrooms, but we have something much better: people power — the millions of people who are fighting to save their homes, struggling to pay their bills,trying to get out from under their student loans, are ready to take action to make things better.

We’re starting off with Wells Fargo.

A recent Forbes cover story called Wells Fargo “The bank that works.” Which begs the question: Who does Wells Fargo work for?

In the last year before the subprime bubble burst, Wells Fargo issued $74.2 billion worth of subprime loans, contributing to the current foreclosure crisis. In spite of its role in helping to crash the economy, Wells Fargo was rewarded with a $43 billion bank bailout from the federal government. To thank the taxpayers that funded this, the company commenced slashing 6,000 jobs over the following 4 years while foreclosing on $17.5 billion worth of homeloans that it owns.

The taxpayers who bailed out the banks got sold out by Wells Fargo.

The result has been an increased economic burden for working people: more foreclosures, depressed wages, fewer jobs, and a deteriorating quality of life. With all the damage done to the economy and the American people, there were no consequences for the executives at WellsFargo like CEO John Stumpf, who in 2011, earned a whopping salary of $17.9 million, according to The Washington Post. This number included a raise of $300,000, more than most people make in 5 years. Worse yet, he received a 2011 tax cut of more than $1 million.

At Causa Justa :: Just Cause, we have been targeting Wells Fargo and protesting their shareholder meetings for more than three years in a campaign to win a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, divestment from private prisons and immigrant detention, and an end to predatory lending.

We’ve also been pressuring the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to divest from Wells Fargo and instead create municipal banks by and for the people who live in the city.

This work took on a new life and a new shape at the end of last year, when we worked in groundbreaking collaborations with Occupy SF & OccupyOakland activists, with unions, and with grassroots organizations, giving Wells Fargo a taste of what it will look like when the 99% act as one. Their headquarters were shut down by civil disobedience half a dozen times, taxpayers sued them, and even their own employees whispered complaints about family members in foreclosure.

2012 will bring a new level of pressure onto Wells Fargo. The momentum that has been building for years in directly impacted communities, like the Black and Latino families that lead Causa Justa :: Just Cause, is spreading far and wide. The hope that a politician will make change for us has fallen away, and in its place, there is a new narrative of change: that the people themselves, the 99%, will take history into our own hands, and shape a better future.

Join with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people across the country and turn out for a 99% Power direct action.

This spring, starting with Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting in San Francisco on April 24, hundreds of thousands of people have united to build an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just John Stumpf and the one percenters.

We are diverse, but united in our demands:

  • Wells Fargo and other big corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Too many of the nation’s biggest corporations actually make money at tax time. One hundred of the Fortune 500’s most profitable companies got average tax refunds of two percent.
  • Corporations like Wells Fargo should start funding the future, not fossil fuels, [factory farms] payday lending and private prisons. Wells Fargo is a major funder of the payday loan industry that preys on cash-strapped working families. It provides credit to six of the seven largest publicly traded payday lenders in the country which finance nearly a third of the payday lending industry.
  • Like a lot of corporations, Wells Fargo laid off workers and hid profits overseas while rewarding CEOs like John Stumpf excessively. Despite taking taxpayer bailout money and making record profits, Wells Fargo slashed 6,385 jobs while the top five execs raked in almost $50 million in one year. They could use some of their historically high levels of cash reserves to finance job creation and get Americans working again.

We are tired of negotiations that produce nothing, tired of “being heard” by CEOs, while they continue to ravage our communities. This year, the 99% will hold a stakeholders meeting, and not allow the shareholders to meet at all. This year, the SF Bay Area will mobilize in coordination with cities across the country, for a whole spring season of mobilization and direct action. This year, we will make history.

Written by: Executive Director of Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Maria Poblet has worked more than a decade in community organizing for racial and economic justice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a coordinator of the social movement in the US, including the US Social Forum and the Grassroots GlobalJustice Alliance. 

 

Activists protest at home of Wells Fargo official

Michael Heid wasn’t home when 200 activists came.

April 14, Des Moines Register: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120415/NEWS/304150026/Activists-protest-at-home-of-Wells-Fargo-official?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News

Saturday’s surprise demonstration at the Urbandale residence of a prominent bank executive seemed to be as much about timing and location as content.

About 200 activists rode five school buses to the home of Michael Heid, the president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. They reiterated a familiar set of concerns they had about the corporation, although the protest was not a stand-alone event.

Equally important to organizers and participants were considerations, part tactical and part inspiration, based on what preceded and what will follow the demonstration, the capstone to a daylong training session.

There is residual energy from last year’s protests against wealth inequality and upcoming shareholder meetings for large banks later this month, which protesters plan to politely infiltrate.

The event in Des Moines was one of dozens happening across the country this week.

“We’ve got energy from Occupy, got a national conversation going, and the opportunity with shareholders. It’s a perfect set of conditions,” said Chris Neubert, an economic justice organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which organized Saturday’s activities. “Bring people together and put in the right amount of inspiration.”

Wells Fargo officials weren’t available for comment Saturday. Heid didn’t respond to a voice mail message left by the Register on his home telephone.

On the ride to and from Heid’s Urbandale home and in the street in front of his immaculately trimmed lawn, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, various labor unions and the local Occupy movement — all of which overlapped — railed against the ills they accused Wells Fargo of: funding corporate prisons, funding payday lenders, not paying a fair amount of corporate taxes, and refusing to take steps that would help underwater mortgage holders.

The exact destination had been a surprise to almost everyone on the buses, and leaders didn’t reveal where they were going until buses were halfway there. The element of surprise didn’t quite work, however. Neighbors said Heid left his house shortly before protesters arrived.

But they left a letter pasted to poster board — “so giant he’ll have to read it and absorb it” — on his porch before heeding police officers’ requests to leave. On their way out of the neighborhood they passed out fliers and talked to neighbors.

Larry Ginter, 72, a CCI member who farms in rural Iowa, led the “people’s shareholder meeting” in front of Heid’s house. The resolutions passed there were similar to ones he will take to Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting on April 24.

Community organizers bought him shares in the bank, so he will sit in the meeting while others protest outside.

“There are a lot of people hurting out there,” Ginter said, listing again the litany of concerns. “But now we’re putting our foot down. We won’t go away. We are here to stay.”

Gil Dawes, 78, said he had been to other protests with CCI, although never at someone’s house. But he said it sent the right signal, that executives can’t hide from people.

“Too bad he wasn’t courageous enough to face people, some of whom are probably his borrowers,” said Barbara Kalbach, 61, a fourth-generation farmer. “We’re not threatening. Why did he have to run away?”

Saturday’s surprise demonstration at the Urbandale residence of a prominent bank executive seemed to be as much about timing and location as content.

About 200 activists rode five school buses to the home of Michael Heid, the president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. They reiterated a familiar set of concerns they had about the corporation, although the protest was not a stand-alone event.

Equally important to organizers and participants were considerations, part tactical and part inspiration, based on what preceded and what will follow the demonstration, the capstone to a daylong training session.

There is residual energy from last year’s protests against wealth inequality and upcoming shareholder meetings for large banks later this month, which protesters plan to politely infiltrate. And the event in Des Moines was just one of dozens happening across the country this week.

“We’ve got energy from Occupy, got a national conversation going, and the opportunity with shareholders. It’s a perfect set of conditions,” said Chris Neubert, an economic justice organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which organized Saturday’s activities. “Bring people together and put in the right amount of inspiration.”

Wells Fargo officials weren’t available for comment on Saturday. Heid didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail message left by the Des Moines Register on his home telephone.

On the ride to and from Heid’s Urbandale home and in the street in front of his immaculately trimmed lawn, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, various labor unions and the local Occupy movement — all of which overlapped — railed against the ills they accused Wells Fargo of: funding corporate prisons, funding payday lenders, not paying a fair amount of corporate taxes and refusing to take steps that would help underwater mortgage holders.

The exact destination had been a surprise to almost everyone on the buses and leaders didn’t reveal where they were going until buses were halfway there. The element of surprise didn’t quite work, however. Neighbors said Heid left his house shortly before protesters arrived.

But they left a letter pasted to poster board — “so giant he’ll have to read it and absorb it” — on his porch before heeding police officers’ requests to leave. On their way out of the neighborhood they passed out fliers and talked to neighbors.

Larry Ginter, 72, a CCI member who farms in rural Iowa, led the “people’s shareholder meeting” in front of Heid’s house. The resolutions passed there were similar to ones he will take to Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting on April 24.

Community organizers bought him shares in the bank, so he and others like him from across the country, will sit in the meeting while others protest outside.

“There are a lot of people hurting out there,” Ginter said, listing again the litany of concerns. “But now we’re putting our foot down. We won’t go away. We are here to stay.”

For others, the protest sent a powerful message about Wells Fargo executives.

Gil Dawes, 78, said he had been to other protests with CCI, although never at someone’s house. But he said it sent the right signal, that executives can’t hide from people.

“Too bad he wasn’t courageous enough to face people, some of whom are probably his borrowers,” said Barbara Kalbach, 61, a fourth-generation farmer. “We’re not threatening. Why did he have to run away?”

>> Click here to read the “Storified” recap of the day.

>> Join as a CCI member or donate to help us continue to Confront Corporate Power!

 

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