Pollution trading bill: A false fix for water crisis

Branstad’s Water Quality Funding and Pollution Trading bill creates $7,799,000 in additional costs for already underfunded DNR.

As Iowa’s water quality crisis continues to grow, the Iowa House Republicans and corporate ag are pushing through a cap-and-trade scheme, known as “pollution trading,” where corporations and cities with deep enough pockets can purchase the right to pollute. Pollution trading turns pollution into a commodity, allowing industry to buy, sell, and trade pollution.

House File 612, sponsored by Rep. Chip Baltimore, creates a pollution trading program, called a “Nutrient Exchange.” Between now and 2030, the bill also redirects $232 million from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) and $289 million from the general fund through a metered water tax* to voluntary water quality programs, like pollution trading.

A Fiscal Services Division report on HF 612 projects that if this bill passes, it will create $7,799,000 in additional costs to the already underfunded DNR between now and 2030. The report says that no funding source has been identified for these expenditures.

“Pollution trading is pay-to-pollute for water pollution. Right now, under the Clean Water Act, polluting is a crime. If this passes, we’ve basically legalized water pollution,” said Brenda Brink, CCI Action Citizen Lobbyist from Huxley. “Iowa is going to spend all this effort and money on a program that has not resulted in cleaner water anywhere in the country.”

Take action today! Call you House Representative at 515-281-3221 and tell them to vote no on HF 612.

A Food and Water Watch study, Water Quality Trading: Polluting Public Waterways for Private Gain, found that pollution trading has failed in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The report concluded that: 

• pollution credits generated by agricultural operations for sale to other industry polluters are unverified and uncertain, and often are based on unsustainable practices that lead to likely increased pollution in our waterways.

• water pollution trading seriously undermines the Clean Water Act, allowing previously accountable pollution dischargers to hide behind pollution credits and to discharge without any real limits.

• regulatory agencies that should be overseeing these practices and protecting our waterways are subjected to political interference, leaving them uninvolved while for-profit companies and pro-industry entities control our water quality future.

“Iowa should learn from the failure of pollution trading programs in other states and take meaningful action to regulate agricultural pollution from factory farms and other sources, not roll back proven water pollution requirements for major dischargers like municipalities. This legislation would make it even harder for Iowa to address its water pollution crisis,” said Tarah Heinzen, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch.

“Pollution trading will never work. DNR is too underfunded to monitor the program along with its other duties. Plus, all conservation practices in Iowa are voluntary and no one is out there monitoring to make sure there is accountability,” said Brink. “Other DNR programs like the Clean Water Act enforcement and air and water quality monitoring will suffer so DNR can create and oversee another public handout to Big Ag.”


CCI Action members call on the Iowa Legislature and Governor to:

1) pass mandatory, meaningful regulations,

2) force Big Ag corporations to pay for the cost of clean-up, and

3) pass a moratorium on new/expanding factory farms in Iowa.


Take action today! Call you House Representative at 515-281-3221 and tell them to vote no on HF 612.

*Based on current estimates from the legislative services agency. Figures could change if the sales tax is increased or if sales of metered water increase or decrease.

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