Environmental groups threaten to sue EPA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) failure to act on a petition urging the revocation of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' (IDNR) authority to regulate factory farm water pollution has led three groups to serve the federal agency with a notice of intent (NOI) to sue.
The action was announced today by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club. The three groups are demanding the long overdue response to the groups' September 20, 2007 petition for withdrawal of the Clean Water Act pollution permitting authority from the state of Iowa - a response that EPA's own rules require it to issue. All three groups expressed their strong desire to avoid legal action against EPA in this matter.
The 2007 petition made the case that EPA should revoke Iowa's authority to issue Clean Water Act permits because the state's program does not meet federal minimum standards and Iowa has failed to implement critical factory farm regulations, at great cost to water quality. In addition to issuing the mandatory response, the groups asked that EPA act by notifying the state that it is not administering the permit program for CAFO discharges in accordance with the Clean Water Act, and holding a public hearing on the matter. Almost four years have now past with no response from EPA or significant improvements in the state's permit program.
EIP Attorney Tarah Heinzen said: "Since we filed the petition in 2007, EPA has sat idly by while Iowa DNR continues to allow hog factories to pollute the state's waters. Despite hundreds of illegal manure spills and devastating fish kills, Iowa DNR continues to blatantly ignore federal law and refuses to regulate factory farms. EPA's nearly four-year delay in addressing our petition is unreasonable and unlawful, and its continued inaction in the face of Iowa's broken regulatory program is unacceptable. The water quality and in turn the public continue to suffer in Iowa. Iowa agreed to regulate polluters when it took control over the water program, and it hasn't lived up to its end of the deal. Iowa citizens have waited long enough - it is past time for EPA to do its job by stepping in to protect public health and the environment from factory farms."
"The EPA needs to do its job and force the Iowa DNR to start issuing Clean Water Act permits to factory farms. DNR keeps kowtowing to the factory farm industry and our Governor keeps appointing people who are hostile to environmental regulations to key positions in the DNR and on the Environmental Protection Commission. They will do nothing unless EPA forces them to act," said Lori Nelson, a CCI member from Bayard. "Enough is enough. We have a record number of polluted waterways and have had over 700 manure spills-with two giant manure spills that caused massive fish kills just in the last two weeks. EPA needs to act now-it's time to put the people of Iowa before polluters."
The notice letter filed this week buttresses the groups' initial request for a formal response from EPA, granting or denying the 2007 petition and providing a reasonable basis for its decision. A sufficient response to the petition will include an Investigation Report similar to that issued by EPA Region 5 with regard to Illinois' CAFO program, and will establish a plan to either bring Iowa's CAFO program into compliance with the CWA or initiate formal withdrawal proceedings.
For more information and a copy of the full EIP, CCI and Sierra Club notice of intent to sue and the 2007 petition at: http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.
Since Iowa DNR received authority to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act in 1978, its program has failed to keep pace with dramatic changes in Iowa's livestock industry. Iowa DNR is aware of its failure to regulate CAFOs under the Clean Water Act, and even acknowledged that "the most obvious threat to maintaining good chemical water quality in Iowa surface waters is the recent expansion of the confined animal feeding industry."
Federal law allows citizens to petition EPA to withdraw the power of a state to issue Clean Water Act permits. EPA regulations list the relevant criteria that would justify removing a state's authority. This petition demonstrates that Iowa meets those criteria, and concludes that EPA should withdraw Iowa's authority to issue CWA permits if the state does not begin regulating factory farm polluters.
About the Groups
The Environmental Integrity Project (www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for more effective enforcement of environmental laws, including the federal Clean Water Act. EIP works to improve state and federal regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and to improve water quality in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (www.iowacci.org) is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life -- urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans -- CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 35 years. The mission of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs, and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.
The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 1.4 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet. In Iowa, the Sierra Club's more than 6,000 members are working to reduce pollution from animal feeding operations.