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JFAN Letter to House Democrats on SF 2370

I was chagrined to learn that the House voted to pass SF 2370, a bill which, among other things, codified Executive Order Number 10 (EO10). I was even more surprised to see that it passed nearly unanimously with all but four House Democrats supporting it.

I’m mystified why you and nearly all the House Democrats voted for this bill, especially those of you who support and have introduced legislation to protect water quality and public health from the impacts of CAFOs.  

 

All the Senate Democrats voted nay on SF 2370.

 

SF 2370 will affect all state regulations, but it’s especially problematic for rules and regulations that govern animal feeding operations and water quality in Chapter 65 and other related chapters.

 

The intent of the first section of SF 2370 was to inhibit more restrictive rules, and the bill will do the following:

 

  • For each five-year rule review, an agency must perform a comprehensive evaluation and rigorous cost-benefit analysis for each of the existing rules in its chapters and identify less restrictive alternatives. While not an explicit prohibition against more restrictive rules EO10 called far, that is clearly the purpose/intent, and what we will see in practice.  

 

I have no quibble with eliminating inconsistent/incompatible rules – that was always the purpose of any five–year rules review –  but this bill is heavy on weakening rules, not strengthening them, as we saw during the recent review of Chapter 65 under EO10. Previously, a rule had the potential to be strengthened if necessary.

 

  • Proposed section 17A.23(b) prevents an agency from adopting rules to implement the agency’s general authority. This prevents agencies from interpreting the statutory purposes to adopt protective environmental rules, for example. Lots of statutes have purposes with nice-sounding objectives (e.g. don’t pollute groundwater, it’s precious!) without detailed rulemaking authorization to achieve them. This bill removes agency authority to implement those.

 

  • In addition, Section 16 says any rule exceeding the “correct” interpretation of law will be invalid. This amounts to a shift in the burden of proof when challenging an agency rule (which is directly modified right before that, at Section 15). This is will have a chilling effect on rulemaking, because anything more restrictive will be seen as exceeding the existing interpretation of the rules.

 

Iowa already has weak animal feeding operation rules and regulations. For the past two years, environmental groups such as Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc., Iowa Environmental Council, and others worked with the DNR to strengthen Chapter 65 in order to protect water quality and public health. The DNR adopted very few of our recommendations while more than half of the industry’s were implemented.

 

We saw firsthand how EO10 prohibited some much-needed improvements for CAFOs sited in karst terrain. Modest changes the DNR initially adopted from Iowa Environmental Council recommendations that would have better protected groundwater from manure contamination in karst terrain were rejected by the governor’s office as not following the dictates of EO10. As a result, Iowans relying on groundwater aquifers for their drinking water in Northeast Iowa and other areas of karst will continue to be at risk for high nitrate consumption. 

 

I fully expected the GOP caucus to support Gov. Reynolds’ bill, but with Iowa’s high cancer rate and 721 impaired waterways, I hoped/expected that at least the House Democrats would have rejected a law codifying a policy that already proved to have a negative environmental and public health impact on vulnerable Iowans. 

 

SF 2370 will not provide an opportunity to strengthen CAFO rules and regulations, but it will provide the agricultural industry opportunities to further weaken them. 

 

I am really at a loss as to why you and most of the other House Democrats supported codifying Executive Order No. 10 and would sincerely like to understand why the House Caucus took this position.

 

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

 

Regards,

 

Diane Rosenberg

Executive Director

Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc.

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