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.

Twenty Iowa-based community, environmental, farm, and labor organizations join coalition sign-on letter calling on EPA/DNR to sign a strong Clean Water Act work plan

Demonstration of broad-based, deeply-rooted support escalates pressure on state and federal government to finally hold factory farm polluters accountable for Clean Water Act violations

Twenty Iowa-based community, environmental, farm, and labor organizations collectively representing tens of thousands of Iowans have joined a sign-on letter circulated by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa Sierra Club, and the Environmental Integrity Project that calls on Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks and Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp to sign a strong work plan guaranteeing on-site inspections for the largest 8,000 factory farms in Iowa, and permits for every polluter.

The sign-on letter may be read here.

The strongly worded sign-on letter was also carbon-copied to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and specifically addresses several of the major inspection and permitting issues currently being debated in the EPA/DNR negotiations.

“This letter demonstrates that Iowans will not stand for any more compromises or concessions with corporate ag,” said Vern Tigges, an independent family farmer and longtime CCI member from Carroll.  “We demand justice – and a strong work plan that ends Iowa’s water quality crisis by cracking down on factory farm pollution.”

The letter was drafted by Iowa CCI, the Iowa Sierra Club, and the Environmental Integrity Project but 17 other organizations have also signed it.

Additional groups representing agriculture and farming interests include the Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa State University Sustainable Agriculture Student Association, Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors, and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Organizations representing environmental interests include Des Moines Water Works, Environment Iowa, Food and Water Watch, the Iowa Environmental Council, and the Raccoon River Watershed Association.

Two labor unions also joined the clean water sign-on letter – the Communication Workers of America Iowa State Council and the Iowa Federation of Labor.

Several community-based groups also signed-on to the letter, including the Allamakee County Protectors, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Poweshiek Community Action to Restore Environmental Stewardship, and Progressive Action for the Common Good.

The policy organization Iowa Public Interest Research Group and the faith-based group Kitchen Table Ministries round out the organizational sign-ons.

The organizational sign-on letter reads in part:

The factory farm lobby has a financial stake in the outcome of this process and the agencies responsible for safeguarding Iowa’s waters cannot permit it to weaken the work plan by categorically exempting thousands of factory farms from inspection and permit requirements. 

The outcome of this process will affect the ability of all Iowans to use and enjoy our rivers, lakes, and streams for decades to come, and we demand EPA and DNR deliver a strong work plan without further delay.

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 after EPA released a scathing report on July 12, 2012 finding the DNR’s factory farm enforcement program does not meet federal requirements.  The July 12, 2012 EPA Report said 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.

The EPA intervention was a response to a 2007 de-delegation petition filed by Iowa CCI members, 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.

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.

Whose Side is EPA Director Gina McCarthy On?  Corporate Ag or Everyday Iowans?

 

EPA chief’s public appearance at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s state fair picnic shelter tomorrow promoting failed policy of voluntary compliance comes less than three months after Governor Branstad demands McCarthy come to Iowa and capitulate to the factory farm lobby on Clean Water Act enforcement

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members on Wednesday blasted Gina McCarthy, newly confirmed Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for her planned visit to the Iowa State Fair tomorrow to participate in an event promoting the failed policy of voluntary compliance organized by Governor Branstad, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp.

“It’s pretty telling that Gina McCarthy is going to the Iowa State Fair to participate in Governor Branstad’s ‘environmental award’ ceremony at the Farm Bureau Picnic shelter – at the same time that Branstad and the Farm Bureau are working overtime to block Clean Water Act enforcement in Iowa,” said Barb Kalbach, a fourth-generation family farmer and CCI member from Dexter.  “Whose side is McCarthy on? Corporate ag polluters or everyday people and the environment?”

“Voluntary individual conservation efforts may be exemplary,” said Kalbach, “but Iowa’s 628 polluted waterways and rising tell the true tale. McCarthy needs to stand up to this bad policy – voluntary compliance doesn’t work.  We need strong and effective public oversight, exactly what Governor Branstad and the Farm Bureau are fighting so hard to prevent.”

McCarthy is scheduled to speak with Farm Bureau representatives at the Iowa Farm Environmental Leaders Awards ceremony at noon Thursday at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s fair picnic shelter.  According to the press release her office circulated:  “During her visit, McCarthy will also meet with farmers and other members of the agricultural community,” code for more closed door, backroom meetings with the big-moneyed corporate agribusiness lobby.

On May 20, Governor Branstad sent a letter to McCarthy demanding she come to Iowa, meet with factory farm industry representatives, and cave to their corporate profits agenda to block meaningful Clean Water Act enforcement of factory farm pollution.

Another top Obama appointee from Washington DC named Nancy Stoner, EPA’s Acting Administrator of Water, will meet with Iowa CCI members at their statewide headquarters in Des Moines at 2pm Thursday, but CCI members say the otherwise high-profile meeting with Stoner is just EPA’s way of providing cover for McCarthy’s likely meetings with Governor Branstad, the Farm Bureau, and other livestock commodity groups around the same time.

The DNR, EPA, and corporate ag lobby representatives will also meet in Des Moines on Friday to negotiate draft new Standard Operating Procedure manuals governing how factory farm inspections will be conducted.  Iowa CCI members say all signs point to EPA making big concessions to the corporate ag roundtable that could exempt hundreds, if not thousands, of factory farms from inspections.

A coalition of community and environmental groups weeks ago outed Branstad’s lobbying efforts opposing Clean Water Act enforcement, and exposed his efforts to bring the corporate ag lobby and other livestock commodity groups directly into the negotiations between the EPA and DNR.

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 after EPA released a scathing report on July 12, 2012 finding the DNR’s factory farm enforcement program does not meet federal requirements.  The July 12, 2012 EPA Report said 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.

The EPA intervention was a response to a 2007 de-delegation petition filed by Iowa CCI members, 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.

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 as much as $7,000 per day – for a grand cost near $700,000.

Iowa CCI is a statewide people’s action group that uses community organizing to build grassroots power and win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.

 

Take Action

Will you call Gina McCarthy’s office in Washington DC at 202.564.4700 right now and demand she meet with CCI members when she’s in Iowa tomorrow?  Here’s a sample script:

  • Say your name, where you’re from, that you’re a proud Iowa CCI member, and then ask to speak to Gina McCarthy.
  • When the secretary asks to take a message, tell her you are angry that McCarthy is coming to Iowa to meet with corporate ag lobbyists and factory farm polluters, but she won’t meet with real citizens.
  • Demand Gina McCarthy meet with Iowa CCI members tomorrow.
  • The secretary will try to pass you off to McCarthy’s scheduler.  Refuse to be transferred and demand the secretary make a note of your call and pass it up the chain of command.
  • Contact us to let us know how your call went. It’s important to track how many calls. go in.

Join the Fight!

 

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