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October 2015
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Environment Iowa

“That Family Doesn’t Matter” – Life Next to A Hog Confinement

Factory farms poisoning Iowa“I didn’t even put in my garden this year.”

You will need ear buds or headphones to listen to this video but it is incredible what you will hear.

This woman describes stink so bad they can’t go outside, but also large clusters of flies on her window sills and being covered with welts from fly bites, a dumpster in one of the driveways piled with dead animals…”you can see carcasses coming out the top.”

Iowa allows this.


Letter From NCEL Re: Fast Track Authority

Even though the boat may have sailed in the US senate, there still may be time to help stop it in the House. The following press release and letter were sent by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators including Iowa State Representatives Charles Isenhart, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelly, Charles McConkey, Art Staed and State Senator William Dotzler.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators 218 D Street SE, 1st Fl., ­ Washington, DC 20003

Representative Charles Isenhart:​ (563) 599­8839,
Senator Virginia Lyons:​ (802) 828­3616,
Representative Denise Provost:​ (617) 872­8805,


Bipartisan group of 110 state legislators from 41 states oppose Fast Track bill; raise concerns about secret trade negotiations, private investor remedies that threaten progressive state environmental and energy policies

State legislators from across the country have sent a​ ​letter​ to Congressional leadership and Senate and House members urging a “no” vote on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation as voted out of committee. The letter (below) was circulated by Iowa State Representative Charles Isenhart and Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons, both of whom are members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and environmental leaders in their states and nationally. The letter was signed by 110 legislators from 41 states.

“Congress has a unique opportunity to protect our democracy, environment, and workers by rejecting fast track authority. Free trade negotiations go beyond tariffs and include policies that can threaten state environmental regulations,” said Lyons, who serves on the Vermont
Legislature’s Joint Energy Committee and is Co­Chair of the state’s Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty.

“Emerging local renewable energy and other businesses lose when large multinational organizations determine rules of trade and rules of regulation ­ all behind closed doors,” Lyons stated. “So­-called ‘fast track’ authority limits Congressional oversight over a process that lacks transparency and threatens the fabric of our democratic system of state sovereignty. ”

Rep. Charles Isenhart echoed these concerns. “Trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy and state legislators are not at the table,” he said. “While virtually every investor group is well represented among the USTR’s more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are. Yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and advanced biofuel incentives.”

Isenhart is the Ranking Member of the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and also serves on the Economic Growth Committee and Ways and Means Committee. He added, “Changes in the current Trade Promotion Authority legislation fall far short of fixing fundamental flaws in both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves, including the system of private justice that sidesteps our courts and gives foreign investors greater authority over policy than elected officials. Whatever the promises of the current administration, there are no guarantees that future administrations will follow through on the commitments of this one. In other words – as state legislators, we have no say, we can’t see, and we reap what others sow.”

Among the signers of the letter was Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, who spoke to negotiators of the Trans­Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the 9th​​ round of negotiations in New York City in April.

“As an elected official, I am particularly concerned about provisions in these agreements that subordinate our domestic legal systems to Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which betrays constitutional principles, and represents the worst kind of corporate domination,” Provost said.

The legislators’ letter raises concerns not only about the pending Trade Promotion Authority legislation but also about likely provisions in the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) with the potential not only to undermine existing state environmental laws and regulations but also to chill future state policies inconsistent with the terms of these agreements. All would be covered by the speeded­up review and approval process known as Fast Track.

Letter Re: Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Senate Democratic Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi:

As elected members of our state legislatures from across the United States, we write to urge you to reject the “Fast Track” version of trade promotion authority legislation as currently drafted and instead support a new process that is transparent, democratic, and accountable.

In July, we wrote to the Senate Finance Committee with suggested changes to the Fast Track legislation as introduced. We stated then, and reiterate now, the need for a new trade authority to provide significant and substantive opportunities for Congress to hold executive branch negotiators accountable. We remain eager to work with you to develop a process that can achieve the level of review and oversight intended by the U.S. Constitution. We believe such oversight to be absolutely necessary for modern international agreements with the breadth and reach of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP).

The lack of transparency – indeed, extreme secrecy – of the trade negotiation process, coupled with the failure of negotiators to meaningfully consult on the far-reaching impact of these agreements on state and local laws, even when binding on our states, is of grave concern to us. As state legislators, we are not at the table. Of the more than 600 cleared advisors to the U.S. Trade Representative, two state legislators have been invited to participate. Thus, we depend on Congress to create a new mechanism that provides for Congress to conduct the in-depth review and oversight these powerful international agreements require. When Congress abdicates much of its authority, as it does in the Fast Track process, our democracy suffers.

Moreover, requirements for “regulatory coherence” and “minimum standard of treatment” provisions included in these trade agreements, and the investor-state system of private justice that can be invoked by investors to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations, threatens the U.S. system of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Our federalist system reserves significant authority to state legislators to regulate to ensure a level playing field for workers and businesses and to implement meaningful human rights, labor and environmental standards – authority that is threatened by these trade pact provisions.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures included in recent and pending trade agreements, including the recently leaked TPP investment chapter, are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments directly in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Although the investor-state tribunal has no power to directly nullify U.S. federal, state, and local laws, in practice, when a country loses to an investor, it will change the offending law, or pay damages, or both. Moreover, a country need not even lose an ISDS case for the chilling effect of a case merely being threatened or filed to impact its future policy making deliberations.

Indeed, in our own experience as state legislators, we have directly experienced that chilling effect. It is not uncommon for investors and foreign governments alike to seek to chill non-discriminatory state legislative action on matters of public health, safety and welfare, with threats of legal challenges based on international trade agreements. State legislative examples we are aware of include electronic waste producer responsibility laws, regulation of water extraction, tax haven restrictions, GMO labeling, and regulation of toxics in consumer products. Current ISDS litigation includes many challenges to environmental regulation, including oversight of hydraulic fracturing and mining.

State legislators have a longstanding and clear position opposing investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements, memorialized in the policy of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “…NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a nondiscriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.” [Readopted August 2013: ]

The undersigned state legislators strongly endorse this position, and urge you in your oversight capacity to remove any investor-state dispute settlement clause from inclusion in the TPP, TTIP or other international trade or investment agreement that may be negotiated in the future.

Many of the undersigned legislators serve on the environment and natural resources committees of our legislatures and have leadership roles advancing environmental protections in our states. We are deeply concerned about public reports of potential provisions in both the TPP and TTIP agreements that would undermine these protections, including provisions on or related to investment and energy exports. With respect to TTIP, we are troubled by reports that the European Union is seeking binding provisions that would facilitate expanded exports of both liquefied natural gas and crude oil. With respect to the TPP, we are very concerned that the U.S. Department of Energy would lose its ability to even review whether exports of natural gas are in the interest of the public, should that agreement include national treatment for trade in gas.

The trade negotiation process is deeply flawed, and it appears to be resulting in deeply flawed trade agreements, namely the TPP and TTIP. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to oversee these agreements and put a stop to overreaching provisions that usurp the legitimate, non-discriminatory exercise of legislative authority to protect the public health and welfare. The pending Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority legislation undermines this Congressional responsibility. We urge you to reject this approach and instead engage in robust, transparent and inclusive oversight of both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves.

(unable to reproduce signatures due to technical difficulties)

Calling All Pipeline Fighters For Urgent Action Tuesday

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteA note from Ed Fallon:

Dear Friends –

I spoke with State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann today on my talk show and he announced big news on the Eminent Domain Bill:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28th at 12:00 noon in Room 22 of the Iowa State Capitol, a joint House-Senate sub-committee will meet to debate and possibly vote on SSB 1276!

There are three things you can do:

1. COME!!  Sub-committee meetings provide one of the few opportunities for average Iowans to speak on and influence legislation directly. I will be there and would love to have a slew of pipeline fighters join me.

2. Share this message and the Facebook Event invite with as many people as possible.

3. Write or call sub-committee members. If you write, carbon copy your own Representative and Senator. To figure out who your Representative and Senator are, and get contact information for them, click Find Your Legislator.

Sub-committee members are:

– Senator Rob Hogg – or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Julian Garrett – or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Brian Schoenjahn – or (515) 281-3371
– Representative Bobby Kaufmann – or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Greg Heartsill – or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Mary Wolfe – or (515) 281-3221

My take is this: The bill needs to be simple and straightforward. All we are saying is that a private, for-profit business that does not provide a public service to Iowans should not be granted the power of eminent domain. My concern is that there is pressure from Big Oil’s friends at the Statehouse to craft a compromise that will weaken this core position.

The bottom line is this: We want the strongest possible bill to come out of sub-committee, as it becomes more difficult to strengthen it later.

ed fallonThank you! This is a pivotal moment, and I hope you can take a little time today and tomorrow morning to do what you can. And if at all possible, come to the State Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12:00 noon!

Ed Fallon

Letter To Iowa Landowners Along Proposed Pipeline Route

photo credit:

Kelcy Warren’s Dallas, TX mansion-photo:

Letter to Landowners
Posted on March 9, 2015 by Ed Fallon

This is the letter Ed is sharing with landowners and others he meets along the pipeline route.

Dear Fellow Iowan,

As I’m sure you know, a Texas billionaire named Kelcy Warren wants to build an oil pipeline through Iowa. I am walking across Iowa following roads near the path of the proposed pipeline. As a state lawmaker for 14 years, I worked to toughen eminent domain laws to protect property owners when government and developers tried to take land for private gain. I also served on the House Environmental Protection Committee because I care deeply about Iowa’s land and water.

Warren is offering landowners a lot of money for an easement to their land. But it’s important that you and other landowners in the path of the pipeline know the risks involved.

* Pipelines break. You may have heard about the big ones, like Yellowstone and Kalamazoo. But the full list of spills is incredible (See Wikipedia: “List of pipeline accidents in the United States in the 21st century”). It’s not a question of if Warren’s pipeline will break, it’s a question of when and where.

* When the pipeline does break, there isn’t enough money to clean-up even one spill. Warren’s company has pledged only $250,000 to clean-up efforts in Iowa. The Kalamazoo spill has cost almost $1 billion – and it’s not done yet. In Wisconsin, the pipeline company pledged $100 million – for one county!

* Even if the pipeline doesn’t break on your land, it will still affect your property values. No one has ever seen their property values increase because an oil pipeline ran through it.

* You won’t be the only one affected if something goes wrong. Iowa’s water is important to us all.

There are many unanswered questions and potential problems. The pipeline company wants you to think this is a done deal, that you should just sell them an easement to your land. But the Utilities Board hasn’t even granted them the right of eminent domain. And there is a bipartisan bill in the Iowa Legislature that would, among other things, make it clear that a pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to refineries in Texas (most of which will be exported) does not constitute a public benefit for Iowa.

I talked to one farmer who’s against it because it goes through the pasture where he wants to build a home for his grand kids. I talked with another landowner whose forest would be decimated. I met a couple who were going to lose their home to the pipeline before they found a loophole that protected them. I have spoken with many other landowners, each with their own reason why they hope and pray that this pipeline will be stopped.

For the sake of these and many, many other landowners – and for your own sake – I ask you to carefully consider whether it’s worth a one-time cash payment, given the potential long-term damage to your property, your neighbors and Iowa’s waterways.

Thank you for reading this letter. I would be happy to talk with or meet with you or any of your neighbors. Here’s my cell phone number: 515-238-6404. And you also can reach me at


Ed Fallon

Iowans Carol For Clean Water

cci  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement


Will Iowa’s Contaminated Drinking Water Lead To Statewide Public Health Crisis?

ernst branstad Citizens for a Healthy Iowa

Elections matter – and the 2014 election results could mean disaster for efforts to clean up & protect Iowa’s rivers, lakes & streams …. our sources of clean drinking water.

Senator-Elect Joni Ernst has said she supports getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and thinks the Clean Water Act is just meddlesome regulation. Gov. Branstad vetoed $20 million that would have protected sources of drinking water and improved Iowa’s parks & natural areas. Long story short … Iowa could be moving in the wrong direction fast.

Are you tired of Iowa politicians putting out of state special interests before protections for clean drinking water? Take action and help us fight back!

citizens for a healthy iowa icon Sign the petition to join Citizens for a Healthy Iowa and #CleanWaterVoters from across the state in sending Governor Branstad and Senator-Elect Joni Ernst a message:

It’s time to acknowledge the potential for a statewide public health crisis due to contaminated drinking water, and to stop condemning the environmental agencies and programs that are fighting to protect Iowa’s waterways from pollution.

Click here to sign the petition

Every Day Should Be Earth Day

earth day 1970 According to, every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day.  That fact in itself is cause for hope.

But it is tempting to be cynical because we’ve been having Earth Days since 1970.  When Earth Day started, it signified the beginning of a mass environmental consciousness, a wonderful, hopeful new awakening!  You would think something repeated for 44 years would have improved conditions, educated and enlightened people, resulted in positive change, but that hasn’t really happened.  People have become more informed about environmental issues, but things have still gotten worse.

Earth Day should not be like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretaries Day, Boss’s Day, etc.  A day set aside to make us all feel like we’re doing the right thing. Then when the day is over most of us move on and forget about it.  Unlike other (fill-in-the-blank) days, the point of Earth Day is to actually do something, not to merely acknowledge.

Truly, we need more than an annual Earth Day. We should have an Earth Year or an Earth Decade or two where every day is dedicated to repairing and making amends to our abused planet. Perhaps this Earth Day will be the one that marks the environmental tipping point.

For some, like CCI members, every day is Earth Day because they are fighting every day for Iowa’s environment.

So in the spirit of doing something meaningful on Earth Day, the one day every year that we are all designated environmentalists, why not take an action that could help?    There is a fight going on right now for something as basic as clean water.  Let’s try to win this fight.

CCI Action Alert:

Have you taken action for clean water?

We are a few days into our 28-day Clean Water Fight public comment period and we need your help to demand a stronger rule to protect our water.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been hit with 200 comments. Let’s double that number for Earth Day!

Today, people will be celebrating our planet. What better reason to lift up the need for clean water in our own backyard.

Help us get 200 more comments into the DNR for Earth Day!

Make your voice heard. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION

Let’s make Earth Day count and let the DNR know we care about our water.

They dump it. You drink it. We won’t rest until they clean it up!

Thank you for being a part of the Clean Water Fight.


Earth Day: The History of a Movement

Why We Must Say No To Frac Sand Mining In Iowa

fracking-hell-1Say NO to FRAC SAND MINING

There is a petition to Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors: John Logsdon, Dennis Karlsbroten, Mark Kuhn, Floyd Ashbacher, and Dean Thompson, which says:

“We, the people of Winneshiek County, call for a rights-based ordinance banning industrial frac sand extraction and processing.


Will you sign this petition? Click here


Frac sand mining and processing cause long-term economic and environmental destruction.

To prevent this imminent danger we must act now to protect the health and integrity of our community.

For more information, please go to:

Previous BFIA posts about fracking in Iowa

Fracking Industry Mining Iowa’s Sand Bluffs

Allamakee County Just Says No To Fracking…For Now

Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?

No Fracking Way!

Iowa, We Have A Water Problem

“Because of runoff from our farms, we have more than 600 polluted rivers, lakes and streams, causing a nitrate surge in our drinking water.”  Find out more here:


The Courtney Report

Courtney Report


Iowa is a pretty safe place. We rank among the 10 most peaceful states in America in the 2012 U.S. Peace Index report, which looks at homicide, violent crime, policing and prison rates.

We also fare well when it comes to accidents. According to the Trust for America’s Health, Iowa has the 12th lowest rate of injury deaths. Our state ranks high because we meet many recommended safety standards that keep us healthy and save lives. These include tracking the causes of injuries, prescription drug monitoring to prevent overdoses, required seat belt use and increased attention to head injuries in youth sports.

We further improved Iowa’s reputation for safety this year by:

1. Requiring criminal background checks of health care employees to prevent abuse and fraud (SF 347).

2. Requiring repeat OWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device before they can get a temporary restricted license to drive to work and substance abuse treatment (SF 386).

3. Ensuring teens get supervised driving practice in all seasons and face fewer distractions by strengthening Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing (SF 115).

4. Requiring more criminals to submit DNA samples. Research shows those who commit property crimes have a high chance of reoffending, with crimes and violence often escalating (HF 527).

5. Providing effective response to emergencies through necessary 911 funding (HF 644).

6. Ensuring children are brought up in safe homes and get the care they need (HF 590, SF 446).

7. Protecting victims by providing more tools to law enforcement (HF 496) and helping those who’ve experienced domestic violence and sexual assault to get the services they need (SF 447).

8. Toughening Iowa laws to better ensure law enforcement can prosecute and put away sex offenders (SF298).

9. Preventing recidivism through corrections education, which helps offenders acquire the skills to become productive members of their communities once they are out of prisons (SF 447).

10. Allowing Iowans to add medical information to their electronic driving record, making it immediately available to health care providers in emergencies (SF 386).

In addition to protecting our physical well being, safe communities also provide justice for citizens.

The Legislature worked this year to ensure Iowans get that access to justice by providing the funding our courts need to offer full-time services, particularly through clerk of court offices and juvenile courts (SF 442).

Clerks help thousands of Iowans every day but because of staff shortages, their offices had been closed part time since the fall of 2009, making it difficult for Iowans to take care of court-related business. Clerks of court manage all court records; notify government agencies of court orders; and process fines, fees, court costs, child support, civil judgments and speeding tickets.

Nearly all court cases in Iowa begin with a filing with a clerk of court. Citizens shouldn’t find a closed sign on the door when they show up to apply for a protective order, access legal documents or pay a bill. That’s why the Legislature approved enough funding this year for the state’s 100 clerk of court offices to be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

We also made sure Iowa courts have the resources to help Iowa’s troubled youth and their families. Juvenile court officers are key to this process. They work with judges to identify the underlying problems a child may be experiencing. Hiring more juvenile court officers will help the courts meet face-to-face with all young offenders and ensure their needs are met.

This year’s court funding will continue Iowa’s tradition as one of the most responsive and respected court systems in the nation.

Thousands of children are in the Iowa court system because of family abuse and neglect. I’ve voted to help to help protect these vulnerable kids by investing in Iowa’s statewide Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program (HF 603).

The CASA program recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to serve as an effective voice in court for abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers make sure the children they work with are in safe, nurturing places. CASAs also ensure that an abused or neglected child is not further victimized by the system devised to protect the child.

While social workers, judges, and attorneys handle dozens of cases at a time, the independent CASA volunteers typically have just one. This allows them to promote the child’s best interests through investigation, assessment and advocacy. They communicate with family, attorneys, social workers, foster parents, therapists, teachers and doctors. The volunteers attend court hearings and placement and family meetings.

The CASA program has proven its effectiveness, and CASA volunteers now serve children in all 99 Iowa counties. Studies show that children in foster care who have a CASA assigned to them receive more help and are more likely to find a permanent home.

To learn how you can help a child in need as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, visit

The Iowa Department on Aging tells us that older Iowans are increasingly falling prey to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Nationally, 1 in 13 seniors report abuse, and it is estimated that 80 percent of elder abuse cases go unreported.

This fall, a special legislative committee will collect ideas to improve Iowa’s efforts to prevent this abuse. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Intervention Study Committee will examine data, look at what is working in other states, hear from experts and offer recommendations to be considered during the 2014 session of the Legislature.

Elder abuse appears in many different forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, undue influence, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation and denial of critical care. We all have a role to play when it comes to ensuring older Iowans are safe and able to enjoy the best possible quality of life.

How can you help?

• Keep in regular contact with older friends and family.

• Listen to seniors and their caregivers.

• Take action when you suspect elder abuse. In Iowa, you should call 800-362-2178 if you suspect a senior you know is at risk of being abused.

The Iowa Department on Aging is hosting a two-part Webinar series on Elder Rights & Protection. These free online seminars take place from 10-11:30 a.m. on October 22 and November 19. The sessions will provide an overview of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation; how and why it occurs; warning signs and risk factors; barriers to addressing elder abuse; and available resources. Register and learn more at abuse-neglect-and-exploitation.

Phone assistance for low-income Iowans Telephone service is vital in emergencies and essential for staying connected to family, employment and community resources. Low-income Iowans may qualify for help with their phone bill though federal Lifeline telephone assistance. Eligible Iowans must have an income at or below 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines or be eligible for other federal public assistance. Those who apply and qualify will receive a $9.25 monthly telephone bill credit. For complete details and an application, go here

Communities can apply for Great Places designation

Through October 1, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is accepting Letters of Intent from Iowa communities interested in seeking designation as an Iowa Great Place and funding for related projects. This year, the Legislature approved $1 million so that state and local groups can work together to cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of Iowa neighborhoods, districts, communities and regions.

Since 2005, Iowa Great Places has helped make our state an ever-better place to live and work. The return on investment has been significant, as reported in the 2010 Economic Impact Report, and Great Places projects have resulted thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs. For more information and to apply, go to

Grants available to rural fire departments

Through October 15, the Forestry Bureau of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is accepting grant applications from rural fire departments to help pay for equipment to battle wildfires. The grants can be used for wildfire suppression equipment, slide in units, hoses, nozzles, adapters, portable tanks and pumps, personal protective equipment and communications equipment. The Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application package and other resources are available at

Contact Tom
Iowa Statehouse
Des Moines, IA 50319

2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601