Time For Branstad Administration to “Clean It Up” – Polluted Water and Corrupt Government

CCI Action Fund members will hold press event at Iowa state capitol cafeteria Friday at 1pm

Des Moines, Iowa –  More than fifty members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund (CCI Action Fund) will hold a press event Friday at 1:00pm at the state capitol to demand Governor Branstad stop interfering in Clean Water Act negotiations between Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Chuck Gipp and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks.

“Governor Branstad, it’s time to clean it up and sign a strong work plan to bring Iowa into compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Cherie Mortice, a retired teacher who raised hogs for ten years.  “Clean up our water of factory farm pollution and clean up our government of corporate corruption.”

News broke this week about a letter Branstad sent to EPA headquarters in Washington D.C. on May 20, proudly proclaiming his opposition to Clean Water Act enforcement and demanding a meeting between the governor’s staff, state and federal regulators, and agribusiness leaders here in Iowa.

Although the governor’s letter doesn’t say which industry leaders he had in mind, other documents released in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to a coalition of community and environmental groups indicate that the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is the chief corporate opponent against reform.

One batch of files includes correspondence between DNR Director Gipp and Christina Gruenhagen, one of the Farm Bureau’s chief lobbyists.  The email dated February 22 Gruenhagen sends to the DNR includes a copy of the draft work plan agreement “marked up” by the Farm Bureau.  For example, under “Objective 4” of the work plan, the Farm Bureau copy proposes using the word “assessments” instead of, or in addition to, “inspections” for factory farms, a significant weakening of the original proposal.

The Farm Bureau’s February 22 mark-up of the draft work plan also deletes language requiring EPA to approve new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manuals under Objective 7.  Branstad makes a similar demand in his May 20 letter when he writes EPA, “we understand that EPA Region 7 is also insisting on final approval, oversight and the ability to change DNR’s standard operating procedures and training for DNR livestock farm program staff, and these are additional areas where we have disagreement.”

Farm Bureau lobbyist Christina Gruenhagen was also quoted in a March 15 Wall Street Journal story titled “Livestock waste lands Iowa in hot water,” and her stated objections are nearly identical to the same arguments Branstad makes in his May 20 letter to the EPA, specifically opposing inspections for factory farms large enough to require a Manure Management Plan. The Farm Bureau’s February 22 mark-ups also attempt to exempt some factory farms from oversight because of their size.

The DNR forwarded the Farm Bureau’s comments to the EPA on February 27.

In addition, the governor’s language in his May 20 letter about “burdensome regulations” and a “gotcha” approach to enforcement are both standard Farm Bureau talking points.

The DNR and EPA have been negotiating a work plan agreement to bring the state of Iowa into compliance with the Clean Water Act after an EPA report released on July 12, 2012 found the DNR’s factory farm enforcement program didn’t 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 report and subsequent federal action was forced by a 2007 de-delegation petition filed by the Environmental Integrity Project, Iowa CCI members, and Iowa Sierra Club and a 2011 Notice of Intent to sue the EPA for a failure to respond to the petitioners in a timely manner.  Petitioners may still pursue legal action if a resolution between DNR and EPA is not reached.

Iowa has more than 8,000 factory farms, 628 polluted waterways, and 800 documented manure spills, according to DNR records.

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