Open letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Mike Tramontina is a lifelong Iowan who enjoys paddling and fishing in Iowa’s rivers and streams even though they are “unfishable” and “unswimmable.” -promoted by Laura Belin

May 5, 2021

Dear Administrator Regan:

It was very disappointing to read the Des Moines Register news article about your visit to Des Moines. While it is good that you joined the announcement of the demolition and redevelopment of the Dico site, you then went to meet with agricultural leaders to learn about the ethanol industry and livestock production. The disappointment was not making time to even take a question about Iowa’s filthy water and disgusting air.

The article implied that you made promises to the ethanol industry without asking them to think about the high environmental cost of producing corn the way they do now. It is hard to believe you praised Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is an utter failure at improving water quality. I hope your EPA would only accept plans that have numeric goals, deadlines, reporting, and accountability.

I appreciate your background in North Carolina, where livestock is also a major industry. Iowa struggles to find a balance in the amount of production and staying within the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act requirements of federal law. Ethanol does have a role to play in cleaner air, but production needs to be within sustainable limitations in terms of Iowans’ land, water and air quality.

I invite you to return to Iowa as soon as possible to meet with a broader cross section of Iowans and to discuss the long running failure by the EPA to protect the air and water quality of Iowans and Americans all the way downsteam to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.


Mike Tramontina

cc: U.S. Representative Cindy Axne
Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Bleeding Heartland

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: When the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was considering the all-voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy in 2013, the Obama administration’s EPA submitted lengthy comments. Among other things, the agency noted, “lt is the EPA’s point of view that numeric criteria are important tools for effective Water quality management of nutrient pollution.”

Top image: Riverbank on the Turkey River, photographed by Mike Tramontina and published with permission.

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  • Thank you, Mike Tramontina

    Like many other Iowans, I was appalled by the process by which the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was developed and adopted. In forty years of working on Iowa environmental issues, the Strategy process was the worst.

    There were in-person invite-only meetings of certain farm groups and state agencies, and no conservationists were invited. There were “public hearings,” but at the one I attended, the many dozens of conservationists present were not allowed to speak. More could be said about that “hearing,” which was the single most cynical public event I’ve ever attended.

    Written comments on the draft Strategy were allowed. But comments from environmentalists, and many of us worked hard on our comments, were ignored in terms of the final document.

    I realize that state and federal Democrats are desperate to connect with Iowa rural voters. But most rural voters are not farmers. And if Big Ag were to essentially control Biden policy development in regard to agriculture and the environment, not only would some of us conservationists lose hope, but Big Ag would still vote Republican.

    Thank you, Mike, for a good letter.