Environmental groups intervene in lawsuit on water quality rules

The Iowa Environmental Council, Sierra Club and the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center are intervening in a lawsuit seeking to throw out new water quality rules for Iowa. The State Environmental Protection Commission approved the “antidegradation” rules in December 2009, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources adopted the rules last year. Immediately following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the rules, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Water Environment Association sued, claiming two EPC members should not have been able to vote on the rules, and that the rules violate an Iowa ban on environmental regulations that are stricter than federal standards. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is representing the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Commission in the lawsuit.

The Iowa Environmental Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Law and Policy Center sought to intervene to ensure that the antidegradation standards will not be relaxed. On February 3, a Polk County district judge approved the groups’ request, saying “the applicants for intervention are environmental groups that have been active in the administrative process and it would be more than beneficial to have their input as intervenors in this case.” After the jump I’ve posted an IEC press release containing more background information.

UPDATE: From an IEC action alert on February 8:

Once again, groups that represent wastewater dischargers are urging legislators to take action to eliminate or weaken Iowa rules that protect water quality.

The Iowa League of Cities and the Rural Water Association are asking lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, to repeal Iowa’s anti-degradation rules. Anti-degradation rules are required by the federal Clean Water Act and are designed to stop further degradation of the rivers, streams and lakes.

Please contact the Legislators who serve on this committee to let them know how important these rules are to protect Iowa’s waters.

Click here for a list of committee members and here for background information and a link to send a letter to lawmakers.

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Good news for Iowa water quality (for once)

State legislators have allowed clean water “anti-degradation” rules to stand, a step toward filling a significant hole in Iowa’s water quality regulations. A last-ditch effort by Republicans failed to win enough votes on the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) to set aside rules adopted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

I’ve joked that the ARRC’s unofficial motto is “Where good rules go to die,” because on several occasions the committee has rejected rules oriented toward environmental protection. Today Republican Senator Merlin Bartz tried to keep that tradition going with a motion to object to the new water quality rules. However, only Bartz’s three fellow Republicans on the committee (Senator James Seymour and State Representatives Dave Heaton and Linda Upmeyer) voted for rejecting the DNR’s rules. The six Democrats on the ARRC (Senators Wally Horn, Jack Kibbie and Tom Courtney, and State Representatives Marcella Frevert, Tyler Olson and Nathan Reichert) all voted against Bartz’s resolution.

Governor Chet Culver’s chief legal counsel, Jim Larew, spoke in favor of the rules at today’s ARRC hearing, saying they would help Iowa reverse the trend of declining water quality. Unfortunately, we’ve got a long way to go on this front. Further regulation of pollution is warranted, but the political will to accomplish that is currently absent in the state legislature.

Several non-profit organizations deserve special recognition today. Without their efforts, the DNR might not have moved forward to adopt the anti-degradation rules, as required by the Clean Water Act. The Iowa Environmental Council issued a release today with more background and details about the anti-degradation rules. Excerpt:

With the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972 states were required to enact Antidegradation rules to prevent the further pollution of lakes, rivers and streams in the nation by 1985.  Iowa adopted rules but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed Iowa that its rules violated federal law as early as 1997.  

Repeated delays in rewriting the rules led a coalition of environmental organizations – Iowa Environmental Council, Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law & Policy Center – to file a Petition for Rulemaking with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2007 requesting that the State act immediately to adopt antidegradation implementation rules.  This action initiated a rule-making process that included several opportunities for public comment and a hearing before the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, which approved the revised rules in December of last year. Monday’s meeting of the legislative Administrative Rules and Review Committee marked the final step in the decades-long process.

The full text of the press release is after the jump.

Thanks again to the Iowa Environmental Council, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Sierra Club Iowa chapter, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

UPDATE: I’ve added the press release from the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter after the jump.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Remember, the off-year Iowa caucuses are this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus here.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

I noticed some job listings and other helpful information in the Iowa Environmental Council’s electronic newsletter.

Value Chain Partnerships, an “Iowa-based network for food and agriculture working groups,” has a new website: www.valuechains.org.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is hiring “a Policy Advocate to work in our Des Moines office to promote clean energy, clean water and conservation projects in Iowa. […] For more information, visit http://elpc.org/category/jobs#… or email Andrew Snow at asnow@elpc.org. Application Deadline is Jan. 30, 2010.

Plains Justice is hiring “a Resource Director who will report to the CEO and work co-operatively with the Board, attorneys and other staff and volunteers to raise, manage and evaluate effective use of financial resources. Demonstrated fundraising success required. […] Contact info@plainsjustice.org for detailed job description. No phone calls please.”

There’s a position open for an “Iowa Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator,” who “will work in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to manage and coordinate the implementation of the objectives of a water quality conservation project and activities, conservation planning and application of practices, information and education and other related activities essential to the district and NRCS.” Application Deadline: January 26, 2010. For a complete job description, salary, hiring requirements, and how to apply, go to http://cleanwateralliance.net/…

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is hiring someone to support its Upper Mississippi River project. “Successful candidates will have relevant academic training in the natural, agricultural or social sciences and experience in environmental advocacy. The position is located in Ames, Iowa. A strong commitment to natural resource conservation, environmental protection, and public health is essential. To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to employment@ewg.org.  For more information and a job description visit http://www.ewg.org/jobs.”

Calling high school seniors: Keep Iowa Beautiful is offering up to four $500 scholarships. “Students across Iowa enrolling in an Iowa college or university to major in community enhancement or environmental areas of study are eligible. Students can download the application on-line at http://www.keepiowabeautiful.c… Deadline for application: must be postmarked by February 1, 2010. Please contact the KIB office at 515-323-6507 with any questions.”

Details about events coming up in the next ten days are after the jump.

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Environmental Law & Policy Center Hosting a "Copenhagen Closing Party"

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign’s Copenhagen Closing Party 

When:  4pm to 6pm, Friday December 18th 

Where: Office of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, 505 5th Avenue, Suite 333, Des Moines 

Who: The Iowa Global Warming Campaign, and dozens of area residents interested in climate change and clean energy. 

(Des Moines) – World leaders have been meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark to negotiate an international treaty to fight climate change. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Iowa Global Warming Campaign will be hosting a “Copenhagen Closing Party” this Friday. This is a good opportunity for a local story about the President and other leaders’ attendance at the Copenhagen summit. 

We will watch President Obama and other world leaders as they address the world about the importance of an international accord to reduce greenhouse gases. Des Moines area residents will also be writing Christmas cards to Senator Grassley asking for his support of a Renewable Electricity Standard to increase clean energy production and jobs. 

“What’s been happening half a world away in Copenhagen has an effect on our actions to fight climate change and power our economy right here in Iowa” said Andrew Snow, Director of the Iowa Global Warming Campaign.

Food and Drinks will be on hand, come out and help us enjoy the last day of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

More information please contact Christian at 515-244-3113 or cucles@iowaglobalwarming.org

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Food advice for the Iowa State Fair, which runs from August 13-23: The best deal on lemonade is at the honey producers’ booth in the ag building. The best ice cream is in the Bauder’s truck, not far from the ag building. Don’t miss popcorn with real butter.

If you’re looking for something useful to do in August, I’ve got lots of event details after the jump.

Please consider attending some town hall meetings with members of Congress. Don’t let right-wing astroturf mobs dominate all of this month’s town-hall meetings.

As always, post a comment or send an e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com if you know of something I’ve left out. You can volunteer for Curt Hanson’s campaign in Iowa House district 90 any weekend this month. I noticed that Mariannette Miller-Meeks has been knocking on doors for the Republican candidate, Stephen Burgmeier.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks (updated)

Who else is looking forward to the Iowa State Fair, which runs from August 13-23?

If you’re looking for something useful to do in August, I’ve got lots of event details after the jump. As always, post a comment or send an e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com if you know of something I’ve left out. You can volunteer for Curt Hanson’s campaign in Iowa House district 90 any weekend this month.

Please submit a comment to preserve public input on CAFO permits by Thursday, August 6. The Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter has made it easy for people to send comments to the right DNR official as well as all the members of the Environmental Protection Commission.

UPDATE: Added some public events featuring Democratic members of Congress. Don’t let right-wing astroturf mobs dominate all of this month’s town-hall meetings.

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