A legislative committee has voted to object to a rule which gives the director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources authority to reject applications from those who wish to build livestock confinements or spread manure in environmentally-sensitive areas. However, that objection does not dismiss the rule, so it will go into effect. A legal challenge is predicted.
Senator Mike Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque, supports the rule that gives the DNR director the power to turn down an application to build a livestock confinement. “If everybody was a good neighbor, we wouldn’t have to have this situation,” Connolly says. “But when you have a bad neighbor out there, we need somebody with a stick to protect the majority of Iowans.”
But Representative Danny Carroll, a Republican from Grinnell, says this rule — approved last month by the state Environmental Protection Commission — is a back-door way to getting what couldn’t be achieved in the legislature. “It appears that the commission is attempting to get through rule what it could not get through the electoral process,” Carroll says.
Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, agrees that the legislature never voted to give this veto power to the DNR director. “Somewhere along the line, the Democratic process has been set aside and that responsibility has been placed in the hands of one person,” Heaton says.
Representative George Eichhorn, a Republican from Stratford, told a DNR representative that legislators had voted down amendments that were identical to the new rule. “We did not choose to take the route that you are taking right now,” according Eichhorn.
Over a dozen Iowans testified Tuesday afternoon before the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, urging the panel to approve the new rule that gives veto power to the DNR director. Randall Cram, president of the 70-year-old “Association for Preservation of Clear Lake,” said a proposed livestock operation threatens Clear Lake because the unit would be built in the watershed that drains into the lake. “It is not fair that the ag industry can do something and the tourism industry in northern Iowa has no say,” Cram said.
Viola Faust of Dexter told legilslators large-scale livestock operations threaten the water and the air — and the state’s economy. “I don’t know what you folks want Iowa to be like,” Faust said. “I hope that you will wake up before it’s too late.”
Garry Klicker of Bloomfield, a livestock farmer who’s president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said the rule’s a reasonable way to prevent construction of livestock confinements that’re too close to water sources. “It’s really a fairly simple thing: if you want clean water, stop dumpin’ hog manure in it,” Klicker said.
Lynn Wallace, a livestock farmer from Dickinson County, said the clear-water glacial lakes in Iowa’s Great Lakes region are threatened by proposed livestock confinements that might spill manure. “I’d like to see my grandchildren still have water to drink, folks,” Wallace said.
Wayne Geiselman, an administrator in the Department of Natural Resources, says the rule gives the agency’s director the option of refusing to issue a construction permit or approve a “manure management plan” if either would have an “adverse effect” on natural resources or the environment. “As we drafted this rule, the department really tried to keep in the back of our mind ‘what is our core mission?'” Geiselman says. “In our view, our core mission is protecting the environment and managing the natural resources of this state.” According to Geiselman, the “fairly limited” authority will give the DNR director to look “case-by-case” at “individual situations.” Such as whether the hog confinement would be built too close to a trout stream, for example.
The rule goes into effect August 23rd. However, Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, immediately lashed out at the committee for objecting to the rule. In a prepared statement, Vilsack said “clean water and clean air took a hit today from the Administrative Rules Committee. Despite overwhelming support from Iowans who believe strongly in conservation and quality of life, a majority of the committee voted to make it nearly impossible for our Department of Natural Resources to do its job of protecting our water and air from hog lots located in environmentally sensitive areas.”