Roger Lande resigns as Iowa DNR director

Friday before holiday weekend news dump, part 1: Roger Lande resigned as director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Lande’s resignation is effective immediately. He told Perry Beeman of the Des Moines Register that he stepped down “to spend more time at his home in the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada.” Beeman’s post at the Des Moines Register blog suggests that former Iowa House Republican leader Chuck Gipp will replace Lande as director. Gipp became the number two official at DNR last July. From Beeman’s piece:

“I think it’s an easy guess who will be the next director, but I don’t know who the next deputy will be,” Lande said. Gipp declined to comment. Lande said he hasn’t been told who will be appointed to replace him.

Branstad’s communications director Tim Albrecht told me on May 25 that he could not confirm that the governor will choose Gipp to run the DNR. The governor accepted Lande’s resignation and said in a press release:

The governor thanked Lande for his service to the state of Iowa, and for leading the Department of Natural Resources through two legislative sessions these past 16 months.

“Roger Lande is a great Iowan and has always responded to the call to service whenever asked,” said Branstad. “Whether it be leading this important department during this current term, or helping me bring IPSCO Steel and hundreds of great jobs to Iowa back in the 1990s, Roger has always accepted the challenge.

“I wish Roger well in his next endeavors and look forward to continuing to work with him and his wife, Sarah, in our efforts to further and strengthen our relationship with our Chinese friends and trading partners,” concluded Branstad.

The IPSCO Steel factory was a controversial project, partly because it was built on prime farmland (some of which was condemned using eminent domain), and partly because it would create more air pollution in the Muscatine area. Muscatine has long had the worst air quality in the state and is “a hot spot for air-pollution-related illnesses relative to the rest of Iowa.” A group of local citizens filed a lawsuit in April against Grain Processing Corp, a major local employer and chronic violator of air pollution rules.

UPDATE: I sought comment on Lande’s involvement with IPSCO from Cedar Rapids-based attorney Wallace Taylor, who replied:

Mr. Lande’s law firm was well paid by IPSCO to do whatever it took to get the plant built. He did not do it as a public service. I know because I represented clients in two lawsuits to try to stop the plant. IPSCO acquired twice as much land as it needed. This was because the plant was going to be built on prime farmland, so IPSCO had to obtain additional land that was not prime farmland to lower the farmland rating score and therefore pass the test of the Farmland Policy Protection Act. And Muscatine County TIFed the area as an economic development area. Among other benefits this allowed the land to be condemned by eminent domain. Mr. Lande went to neighboring landowners and threatened to condemn their land if they did not sell. Following intense pressure, the Department of Natural Resources gave IPSCO an air emissions permit that violated the air quality regulations.  Governor Branstad is way off base in citing IPSCO as a good example of economic development.

Gipp’s record on environmental issues doesn’t make me optimistic if Branstad taps him to run the Iowa DNR. The Branstad administration failed last year to get legislation passed moving all water quality programs from the DNR to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Appointing a farmer whose last job was in the state agriculture department would be a back-door way of accomplishing the same goal.

Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston praised Gipp yesterday and suggested that appointing him to replace Lande would “help address lingering issues at DNR, including working with businesses fairly.” Even though Iowa has about the worst water quality in the country, some business leaders still promote the fantasy that environmental rules are too tough on them.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement criticized Gipp’s possible elevation in a May 25 press release (emphasis in original):

In 2001, CCI members labeled Gipp one of the “Factory Farm Four” because of his long voting record to reduce and rollback citizen input and public oversight over the corporate factory farm industry.

* In 1995, Gipp voted for H.F. 519 – a bill signed into law by then-governor Branstad that essentially rolled out the welcome mat for factory farm expansion in Iowa.

* In 1997 and 1998, Gipp voted to outlaw local control ordinances and centralize decision-making authority with the state, expand the ability of corporations to purchase farmland and raise livestock, and grant immunity from fines and penalties to documented polluters.

* In 2003, Gipp voted to rollback clean air rules, strip the DNR of its power to write ambient air quality standards, strengthen nuisance lawsuit protections for corporations, and expand the industry’s ability to build factory farms in environmentally-sensitive areas like flood plains and on karst soil.

* In 2004, Gipp voted to legalize factory farm air pollution by creating a weak regulatory framework for air quality standards.

* In 2005, Gipp voted to undermine law enforcement and corporate accountability by making it harder to refer habitual factory farm polluters to the Attorney General, and obstruct DNR rulemaking by making it easier for big-moneyed corporations to stop or stall rulemaking.

* In 2006, Gipp voted to gut DNR’s authority to deny or modify a factory farm construction permit or manure management plan, empower the state legislature to stop or stall executive branch rulemaking, weaken manure management laws, and discourage and penalize citizen input by silencing everyday people who speak out against factory farm pollution.

* In 2008, Gipp voted for a $23 million taxpayer-funded odor study that would stall action on mandatory and enforceable clean air standards and force Iowa citizens to foot the bill.

“Gipp’s record speaks for itself,” [family farmer Larry] Ginter said. “Branstad will likely appoint him to carry polluted water for the corporate ag agenda.”

Iowa CCI members say Branstad’s political appointments to the DNR, Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), and Board of Regents – including Chuck Gipp, but also retiring director Roger Lande, Bill Ehm, and Bruce and Brent Rastetter – clearly demonstrate just how beholden Branstad is to the corporate ag interests that bankrolled his campaign for governor.

I hope Lande enjoys retirement at his Lake of the Woods home in Canada. The water’s going to be cleaner there than in any Iowa lake.

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