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Environmental Protection Commission must follow Iowa’s laws
May. 14, 2022 7:00 am
The Iowa Environmental Council is demanding that the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission create flood plain maps to guide the siting of large-scale livestock operations. For good reason, these facilities should not be built on land prone to flooding.
A 2002 law directs the commission to create the maps, but no maps have been drawn. Putting confinements in flood plains increases the change that manure will leak into streams and rivers. The environmental council says the Department of Natural Resources has granted permits to livestock facilities to be built in flood plains seven times since 2003.
Iowa’s environmental laws governing livestock production already are exceedingly weak. And yet, the Environmental Protection Commission seems uninterested in following some of them.
Just last month, State Auditor Rob Sand said the DNR has failed to appoint and convene an advisory panel on air quality as required by law. Sand contends the department also has not complied with a law requiring it to inventory wetlands and marshes in each county.
Add these issues with the big picture of Environmental Protection Commission decisions in recent years and it seems clear the commission isn’t interested in protecting the environment.
The commission has repeatedly reject calls for strengthening rules governing livestock confinements. It’s rejected placing a moratorium on new livestock permits to allow for an evaluation of current laws. It rejected a petition to set water quality for lakes, arguing that knowing the full scope of lake pollution could lead to costly cleanups. The DNR approved a flawed manure management plan for a massive cattle feedlot built in the watershed of a pristine northeast Iowa trout stream.
The list goes on and on. The flow of nitrate and phosphorus pollution from agricultural operations continues, fouling Iowa waterways and feeding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Algae blooms fed by farm fertilizer runoff plague our lakes and close our beaches. Iowa’s list of impaired waterways continues to grow, including rivers and streams polluted by manure spills.
Republicans who run the Statehouse have shown no interest in doing anything truly meaningful to address Iowa’s water problems. They’ve deferred to agricultural interests, that want only voluntary efforts that are not making significant progress.
But at the very least, we can expect environmental regulators to follow the laws we have, while we wait endlessly for the laws we need.
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