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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2011
Iowa Environmental Council to Intervene in Farm Bureau Lawsuit
A judge decided Thursday, February 3, that the Iowa Environmental Council, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Sierra Club should be allowed to intervene in a legal challenge to the clean water anti-degradation standards that Iowa passed in 2010. Anti-degradation rules are required by the federal Clean Water Act and are designed to stop further degradation of the rivers, streams and lakes.
Anti-degradation rules were adopted by Iowa in February 2010, after two years of rule-making, including opportunities for public comment. During the process, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received over 900 public comments, including comments from those to be regulated, and adjusted the rules to reflect the feedback.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval for Iowa’s anti-degradation rules in September 2010. The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Water Environment Association filed a lawsuit on October 4, 2010, challenging the rules. These organizations represent businesses and municipalities who are required to obtain permits to discharge wastewater into Iowa waters. Pollutants in wastewater are regulated in order to protect water quality.
Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director for the non-profit Iowa Environmental Council, says that fears about the new rules are unfounded as Iowa’s anti-degradation rules have the flexibility needed for Iowa communities and businesses to grow and, at the same time, protect water quality.
“At every stage these rules have faced significant opposition from wastewater dischargers who support the status quo and inflate the projected costs of doing business in a new way-a way that would stem the continued degradation of our waters,” said Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director for the non-profit Iowa Environmental Council.
Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Iowa Environmental Council have partnered to intervene in the lawsuit to ensure that the standards, which protect Iowa’s important water resources, will not be weakened. The Sierra Club is also intervening and is represented by Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids.
Last Thursday, the Iowa District Court for Polk County ruled that these groups should be allowed to intervene in the case, stating “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.”