CCI Action Sues Branstad’s DNR

Iowa CCI Action Fund Sues Branstad’s Political Appointees Over Clean Water Vote

 Lawsuit states that August 19 vote on Clean Water Act rules was illegal because five environmental protection commissioners had a conflict of interest and stood to financially benefit from passing a weak rule

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund filed a legal complaint in state court August 20 alleging that an August 19 vote on new Clean Water Act rules by the Environmental Protection Commission was illegal because five members of the EPC appointed by Governor Terry Branstad have a direct financial stake in the factory farm industry and should have recused themselves from the vote because they would financially benefit from passing a weak rule.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the implementation of the Clean Water Act rule and to force a new vote on stronger rules without the participation of commissioners who have a direct and immediate financial interest in the outcome.

“This lawsuit seeks to invalidate the vote by a commission which consists of individuals who clearly had a vested financial interest in the proposal before them,” said Joseph C. Glazebrook of Glazebrook, Moe, Johnston, & Hurd, LLP, Iowa CCI Action’s attorney.  “We believe that when the executive branch of government fails to protect the general public from this type of harm, it is up to the courts to make sure the people’s interests are best served by state government.”

The new rule, which must still pass a legislative review committee before it is implemented, gives the Iowa Department of Natural Resources clear authority to permit factory farm polluters under the federal Clean Water Act.  Permits would force operators to play by stronger environmental standards.  But Iowa CCI members have criticized the rule package for giving the DNR too much discretion over permitting decisions rather than mandating clear and objective criteria to permit the entire industry.

The five commissioners who have direct financial interests in factory farms that would be impacted by the rule are Gene Ver Steeg, Brent Rastetter, Max Smith, Nancy Couser, and Cindy Greiman.  Many of them have a long history of manure spills and other environmental violations at their operations, and are tied to industry groups and corporations with a long history of advocating for pro-corporate policies that de-regulate environmental protections.

“Governor Branstad, for far too long now, has let industry insiders and big money donors run all facets of our government. We are drawing a line in the sand when it comes to clean water for all Iowans,” said Barb Kalbach, President of the Iowa CCI Action Fund, and a nurse and 4th generation family farmer from Dexter, IA.

“Ultimately, what we want is for the EPC and DNR to open this rulemaking back up, strengthen the rule, and for a panel of commissioners without a financial conflict of interest to approve a stronger rule.”

Iowa CCI Action Fund members and their legal counsel say an Iowa Supreme Court ruling last month in a case brought by the Iowa Farm Bureau against former EPC commissioner Susan Heathcote is not relevant to this case because it ruled on “viewpoint bias” and did not consider the question of direct and immediate financial gain.

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