A judge decided Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 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. States are required by the federal Clean Water Act to adopt anti-degradation rules which are designed to stop further degradation of the rivers, streams and lakes.
Anti-degradation rules were adopted by the state of 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 the Iowa Water Environment Association filed a lawsuit on October 4, 2010, challenging the rules. "These three organizations who filed the lawsuit last fall 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," says Lynn Laws, information director for the Iowa Environmental Council.
Farm Bureau, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and the Iowa Water Environment Association are suing the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission saying that two of the people who serve on the EPC who voted for passage of the rules were not eligible to vote on this matter because they allegedly have a vested interest in it.
Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director for the nonprofit 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," she says.
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. On February 3, 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."
About the Iowa Environmental Council
The Iowa Environmental Council actively works in public policy to provide a safe, healthy environment for all Iowans, says Marian Riggs Gelb. The council focuses on public education and coalition building to give Iowans a voice on issues that affect their quality of life and to protect Iowa's natural resources for current and future generations. For more information contact the Iowa Environmental Council visit www.iaenvironment.org.