ABI successful in obtaining antidegradation rule clarification

September 15, 2016

On Tuesday, the Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) gave final approval to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources rule package that includes changes ABI requested to the state’s antidegradation rule and implementation procedure. In April, ABI - along with the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities and the Iowa League of Cities - petitioned the DNR to clarify the rule after a district court ruling made the existing antidegradation procedure unclear and potentially expensive and burdensome for ABI members.

Though environmental groups opposed the rule package throughout the process, ARRC members voiced concerns at the meeting Tuesday for the potential for expensive impacts of an unclear rule on Iowa’s small towns and on businesses, and ultimately approved it.

The rule changes were filed emergency after notice, and have been in effect since August, however this ARRC meeting marked the final state-level hearing on the rule changes. The EPA must now also approve the rules, and ABI has spoken with EPA and will continue working with DNR to monitor this issue.

In the underlying court case, the environmental group asserted that the DNR improperly approved the city of Clarion’s NPDES permit for its wastewater treatment plant, because they allowed an antidegradation alternatives analysis without requiring a robust comparison of the costs of less degrading alternatives to the environmental benefits. The judge agreed, identifying a gap in how DNR had been applying the antidegradation rule. ABI decided to act to close this gap and to reestablish clarity to the state’s antidegradation procedure, which had been in place since 2010.