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.