CCI Member, Ray Harden, from Perry, Iowa wrote an excellent piece about the Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit and the new dirty water attack ad.  Check it out!

 

DES MOINES WATERWORKS LAWSUIT

 

The T.V. commercial opposing the Des Moines Waterworks legal action against  three county drainage districts in northwest Iowa has misleading statements. The commercial gives the impression that individual farmers are being sued, this is incorrect.  The legal action is against drainage districts, not farmers or landowners.  Under Iowa law the drainage districts are run by the county supervisors, they are responsible for operating and maintaining the drainage district system.

The Des Moines Waterworks (DMWW) is saying that the districts are allowing water that contains known  pollutants to be discharged into Iowa’s waterways via a drainage ditch is a “point source of pollution” and should be regulated by the Federal Clean Water Act.  The discharge from the drainage ditches should be treated the same way as a discharge from a municipal sewage facility.  DMWW wants drainage districts to be regulated and be required to have a permit for discharge.  This is what the courts will decide.

The most egregious  statement made in the T.V. commercial is: ” Currently Iowa’s rivers are the cleanest they have been in twenty years.”  The Iowa Clean Water Alliance does not provide any data to backup this claim regarding water quality.  It is ironic that the statement was made the same week that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported Iowa’s

“Impaired Bodies of Water” has increased 15% in the last two years- there are now 725 bodies of water on the list (Des Moines Register May 15).  The North Raccoon River, that flows through Dallas County, is one the most polluted.

The “Clean Water Alliance” does not provide any data to backup this statement regarding water quality.  I am not seeing the rivers getting cleaner.   I do a monthly nitrate test on three drainage tiles that flow into a creek near Perry.  From late winter to May  these three tiles have consistently had nitrate reading of 15mgm per liter to 20mgm per liter.  More that 10mgm per liter is not considered to be safe in drinking water.

I did nitrate tests on the waters of the North Raccoon River, from Greene County to Dallas County on a recent canoe trip and found similar nitrate readings.    The river’s color is also a sign of water quality- the river was a chocolate brown, indicating a lot of soil erosion.  The soil washing into the streams carries fertilizer, manure, and other undesirable chemicals that have a harmful effect on wildlife and humans.

It has been many years since I have caught a walleye or smallmouth bass in the Raccoon River- fish that need clean water.  It has been equally as long since I have see a live mussel or clam in the river; they are dying because of nitrates in the water.  Where is the clean water the commercial is referring to?

I am pleased the Des Moines Water Works is moving forward with the lawsuit.  This action will bring more focus to the problem and hopefully the Iowa Legislature and governor will provide more funds for agricultural conservation practices and regulations to improve Iowa’s water quality.

 

Ray Harden

Perry, Iowa

 

 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.

Learn more

 

Clean Water Act (CWA) permits hold factory farms to higher standards and it can shut them down!  As of today, the DNR has not issued a single Clean Water Act permit to a hog factory farm in Iowa.

Here’s why Clean Water Act permits can be game-changers as we build a farming system that works for People and the Planet!

  • Broader coverage of enforcement
    • CWA permits must prevent discharges from the production area as well as land application areas. Iowa’s Manure Management Plans (MMPs) only address land application areas.
  • More transparency
    • When permits are proposed the public must be given notice of the proposed permit and an opportunity to comment on it. NPDES permits, and all associated reports, must be publicly accessible.
  • Fixed terms
    • Unlike Iowa’s MMPs, CWA permits have fixed five-year terms. That way, they are subject to being reviewed, updated, or terminated on a regular basis. DNR admitted in an Ag Appropriations Sub-Committee this year that DNR does not review MMPs because they do not have the capacity to do so.
  • Operation & maintenance requirements
    • CWA permits have operation and maintenance requirements so that factory farm operators prevent problems before they happen. Currently, factory farm owners may have to fix a problem after a discharge, but aren’t required to use basic practices that would prevent many discharges in the first place.
  • Higher penalties for violations
    • State law caps penalties at $5,000 per day per violation and the state cannot collect more than $10,000 per violation. Under the CWA, penalties are up to $37,500 per day per violation, which would include penalties for discharges or other violations of a permit. Higher penalties mean greater deterrence from pollution. When facilities have NPDES permits, permit violations are also CWA violations that can warrant these heightened penalties, even if the violation does not cause a discharge to a surface water.

If you think the Iowa DNR should start issuing Clean Water Act permits to polluters, join the fight!

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says Bakken Oil Pipeline “Raises Red Flags”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members discover July 17 IRFA memo after filing a public information request with Governor Branstad’s office

IRFA memo says pipeline proposal raises red flags because Big Oil enjoys unfair taxpayer subsidies and could use eminent domain to confiscate valuable Iowa farmland and turn it over to a private, out-of-state, for-profit corporation

To view an original copy of the IRFA memo as provided to the governor’s office, click here

MEMO

TO:                  Iowa elected leaders

FROM: Iowa Renewable Fuels Association

DATE:  July 17, 2014

RE:       Iowa Oil Pipeline Proposal Raises Red Flags

On July 10, 2014, The Des Moines Register reported Texas-based energy company Energy Transfer Partners L.P. is proposing “to build an 1,100 mile underground pipeline to transport a highly volatile type of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through 17 Iowa counties en route to Illinois.”

Since then, a number of other articles have been written on the topic, and several Iowa leaders have weighed-in indicating they need to learn more about the proposal before taking a position on it.

While IRFA has not taken a position on the oil pipeline proposal, the initial reporting on this issue has raised several red flags that need to be carefully considered in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Much of the print has focused on whether it would be appropriate for the builder—a private, out-of-state energy company—to use eminent domain to acquire easements to construct the pipeline through valuable Iowa farmland.  This is certainly a very important and delicate point to consider.

Another important question to contemplate is whether it is good policy for Iowa to allow a private, out-of-state energy company to exploit the petroleum industry’s significant industry-specific federal policy benefits in order to help provide a marketplace distribution and cost advantage to Bakken crude oil over higher blends of renewable fuels.

In fact, this pipeline proposal highlights two specific ways in which the federal policy deck is stacked in favor of petroleum:

  • Federal pipeline loan guarantee program—As a petroleum pipeline, the Energy Transfer Partners L.P. project would be eligible for a federal pipeline loan guarantee.  A similar ethanol pipeline project would not be eligible for a federal pipeline loan guarantee. Case in point: plans for an 1,800 mile ethanol pipeline from Sioux Falls, SD, to New York Harbor were shelved in 2010 due to the fact that a federal loan guarantee could not be secured for a pipeline that was shipping something other than oil and gas.
  • Master limited partnership eligibility—The Texas-based company proposing to build the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners L.P., is a master limited partnership (MLP).  According to U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), author of the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act, “an MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests are traded on a market like corporate stock.  By statute, MLPs have only been available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects.  These projects get access to capital at a lower cost and are more liquid than traditional financing approaches to energy projects, making them highly effective at attracting private investment.  Investors in renewable energy projects, however, have been explicitly prevented from forming MLPs, starving a growing portion of America’s domestic energy sector of the capital it needs to build and grow.”

Federal pipeline loan guarantees and master limited partnerships are two ways in which this Iowa oil pipeline proposal would be significantly advantaged over a similar renewable fuel pipeline project.  These advantages, coupled with the oil industry’s century of subsidies, federal petroleum mandate and fuel distribution monopoly, demonstrate definitively that the federal policy playing field is tilted heavily in favor of oil.

IRFA is not opposed to the construction of oil pipelines or other efforts to lower the price of domestic oil.  However, we do object to the use of oil-specific federal policy benefits to provide cost relief and other marketplace advantages exclusively to the petroleum industry, further disadvantaging Iowa’s homegrown renewable fuels.

As you develop your position on this Iowa oil pipeline proposal, IRFA would ask you consider using this unique opportunity to demand equal status for a renewable fuel pipeline in terms of eligibility for federal loan guarantees and MLPs, and to shine additional sunlight on the significant federal policy advantages enjoyed exclusively by the oil industry.  These points need to be front and center as Iowans consider whether to support this Iowa oil pipeline proposal.

If you have any questions regarding this memo, please call the IRFA office at 515-252-6249.  Thank you for your consideration.

Grant Menke

Policy Director

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association

(515) 252-6249

(515) 321-6290 cell

gmenke@iowarfa.org

OPEN LETTER TO IOWA LAND OWNERS

August 5, 2014

As lifetime family farmers and rural property owners, we strongly urge Iowa land owners in the path of the proposed Bakken oil pipeline to refuse signing agreements with Transfer Energy Partners or Dakota Energy, LLC giving them access to your property for land assessments and surveys.

This project has not yet been approved by Governor Branstad or the Iowa Utilities Board and there is no reason to grant survey requests while there are still crops in the field.  Survey equipment could cause soil compaction and crop damage.  The consent forms provided by the big oil corporation do not explicitly guarantee adequate compensation for any crop or soil damage caused during land surveys.

We recommend that land owners who do approve the company’s survey request consider demanding revisions to the consent forms to limit the scope and timing of surveying and allow for fair compensation to damaged crops or soil.

Informational meetings held by the big oil corporation may be held in late September, potentially during peak harvest season.  This may make it difficult for some impacted property owners to attend the meetings.  A 30-day notice is required to be posted before the meetings can begin.  After the meetings are completed, the company may apply for a permit petition.

Public hearings and a formal input process will start after a permit petition is filed.  If the project is approved by Governor Branstad and the Iowa Utilities Board, land owners who do not agree to sell permanent 50-foot easements and allow for a 150-foot right-a-way for construction on their land could have their property confiscated under eminent domain laws.  Construction could also compact soil, interfere with planting and harvest, and may cause additional damage to crops and drainage tiles.

We are very skeptical that this project could ever be in the public interest, as it does not appear that it will create permanent jobs and poses a significant risk to Iowa’s air, soil, and water quality.

For more information, please contact Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement at 515.282.0484 or iowacci@iowacci.org

Sincerely,

Larry Ginter, Rhodes

Keith and Marian Kuper, Ackley

Jim and Barb Kalbach, Dexter

George Naylor and Patti Edwardson, Churdan

Jeff and Misti Craig, Panora

Curt Burger and Brenda Brink, Huxley

Mike and Ginny Meyer, Lone Tree

Lori Nelson, Bayard

Elizabeth Partridge Blessington, Breda

Rosemary Partridge, Breda

Lynn Gallagher, Solon

Suzan Erem, West Branch

BOLD IOWA RESISTANCE:  Four “Rally and March To Stop the Bakken Oil Pipeline” Events Scheduled For Des Moines, Newton, Iowa City, and Davenport

 

Statewide demonstrations against the pipeline coincide with former rep Ed Fallon’s national “Great March for Climate Action” as group marches across Iowa this month

A national climate justice march started by a former statehouse representative and currently traveling through Iowa has connected with opponents of a proposed Bakken oil pipeline and will hold four rallies and marches in four separate cities as the group walks across the state this month.

The statewide events will feature speakers from the Great March for Climate Action as well as local-area CCI farmers and other everyday Iowans concerned about climate change and the bakken oil pipeline.  The dates and times are:

  • Des Moines, Monday, August 11, 5pm, Ritual Café to the Iowa State Capitol;
  • Newton, Thursday, August 14, time and location To Be Announced;
  • Iowa City, Wednesday, August 20, 11:30am, Ped Mall;
  • Davenport, Sunday, August 24, 2pm, LeClaire Park.

The Newton rally on August 14 will also include representatives from Bold Nebraska, a grassroots group that has united farmers, ranchers, and environmentalists to fight back against the Keystone XL pipeline.

“I am marching across the country to sound the alarm that our planet is in serious peril.  Building a dangerous Bakken crude oil pipeline does not fit into my vision of a livable future,” said Miriam Kashia, a North Liberty woman who has spent eight months with the Great March for Climate Action as the group moves from Los Angeles to Washington DC.

Organizers with the Great March for Climate Action and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement say the statewide demonstrations will mark a major escalation in the movement to stop the Bakken oil pipeline as opposition moves from social media and the internet and on to the streets.

A petition launched by Iowa CCI members calling on Governor Branstad to reject the pipeline proposal has garnered hundreds of signatures in less than a week online.

The Great March for Climate Action departed Lost Angeles on March 1 and is scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC on November 1.     

To learn more about the Great March for Climate Action, visit www.climatemarch.org