Proposed Change to Anti-Deg Standards Would Weaken Water Quality Protections

posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In March, an Iowa District Court judge sided with the Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center when it found that DNR failed to properly enforce the state’s anti-degradation standards when it approved a wastewater treatment plant expansion for the City of Clarion.

The ruling reaffirmed that per Iowa’s anti-degradation standards, it is DNR’s responsibility to ensure that projects that would add or increase pollution to waters protected under the Clean Water Act have considered alternative treatments that reduce pollution, that environmental benefits have been appropriately accounted for when evaluating costs and benefits, and that these alternative treatments have not been eliminated based on cost alone.

Following the ruling, a petition for rule-making to amend Iowa’s anti-degradation rules was filed by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities and Iowa League of Cities. Today, at DNR’s recommendation, the Environmental Protection Committee (EPC) voted to proceed with the rule-making process.

If ultimately adopted, the amendment will weaken Iowa’s anti-degradation standards by removing the recently reaffirmed provision. The Council and ELPC were instrumental in shaping Iowa’s anti-degradation standards. This would be a giant step back in reducing unnecessary new or increased pollution, and is inconsistent with the state’s goal of reducing nutrient pollution in its waterways.

The Council and ELPC spoke against the proposed changes at today’s meeting, and plan to submit joint written comments opposing the change later this month. Read the comments the Council provided at today's meeting. A public hearing will be held in Des Moines on June 29. Public comments will be accepted through that time.

Individual Iowans, agricultural, business, industry, municipal and environmental groups have a shared responsibility – and interest – in preserving water quality in the state. In the coming weeks, we will work with diverse stakeholders to convey how amending Iowa’s anti-degradation standards would set the state back on its water quality goals. Stay tuned for opportunities to make your voice heard. 


  1. anti-degradation
  2. water quality