Governor Tom Vilsack made a stop in Clear Lake today (Wednesday) to tout state efforts to clean up Iowa lakes and waterways. Vilsack’s visit came the day after a legislative committee objected to a rule giving the Department of Natural Resources the power to veto new livestock confinements in the state.
During remarks in Clear Lake, Vilsack called on candidates running for governor as well as those running for the legislature to start discussing the environment and livestock confinement issues as part of their campaigns.
“I think in the next three months there ought to be a significant debate for everyone who’s running for office about where they stand,” Vilsack says. “Let’s be specific about it. Let’s not get away with ‘Well, I’m for the environment and I’m for agriculture.’ Let’s find out where you are.” Vilsack says this election could be an important turning point in the state’s environmental debate.
“We have momentum. We’ve begun the progress. We’ve got monitoring. We’ve got statistics. We’ve got some money behind this effort. The question is are we going to continue it? Are we going to expand it?” Vilsack asks. “I’ve yet to see a candidate talk about this. They’ve talked about everything else but they haven’t talked about this. You know what, as a citizen, I’m interested in this…and I’m going to continue to talk about it.”
Vilsack criticism is not only aimed at the Republican nominee for governor, Jim Nussle, but at gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver who like Vilsack is a Democrat. Vilsack says it’s important that candidates be pressured to make a “firm commitment” to spend state resources to clean up Iowa waterways.
Vilsack says too many people considered Tuesday’s decision by the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee as a total victory when in fact it should be viewed as a bad move by legislators. The committee objected to the rule, which lets it go into effect but now puts the burden on state officials to prove turning down a livestock confinement construction permit is the right action if the matter goes to court.
“It makes it harder for the DNR to sustain whatever decision they make if they’re challenged in court and so it’s a step back,” Vilsack says. The governor cites the record number of construction permits that have been granted in the past year. The state has never denied a permit, by the way, during Vilsack’s tenure.
Vilsack suggests the livestock issue will be a factor in some legislative races this fall. “It seems to me now clear that we have to ask those who run for office precisely where you stand on clean water and clean air,” Vilsack says. “The legislators who say ‘The legislature has spoken,’ well, you know what? I think it’s the people’s time to speak.”
Clear Lake area officials told Vilsack they’re worried about the potential economic and environmental impacts of a 24-hundred-90 head hog lot that is scheduled to be constructed just northwest of Ventura. The legislature earlier this year approved spending eight-point-six million dollars to restore several Iowa lakes, including Clear Lake.