Iowa DNR eases environmental rules during COVID-19 outbreak

Iowa landfills are bracing for the arrival of hog carcasses. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has eased a range of environmental regulations and application deadlines through at least April 30 in response to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency declarations related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

DNR will suspend fines for violations of various regulations, allow farmers to house extra hogs in barns if needed, extend deadlines for permit applications for many programs and delay license revocations.

The department reserves the right to take enforcement action “for conduct that endangers Iowa’s natural resources or the public’s health and welfare,” DNR Director Kayla Lyon wrote in a memo made public Friday. The memo was co-signed by V. Joyce Flinn, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“The department is attempting to provide some regulatory relief and to mitigate the economic effects of business closings and social distancing standards necessary to protect the public’s health,” Lyon and Flinn wrote. The temporary approach is “an attempt to balance the need to protect and maintain Iowa’s natural resources against the need to protect people from infection.”

The protocol could be amended or extended.

Among other temporary changes:

  • Municipal landfills can accept yard wastes if necessary due to limited staffing. Typically, yard wastes are banned in landfills.
  • Farmers who double-stock hog confinements will need to revise their manure management plans. Hog producers will have 60 days after county offices reopen to get required signatures on their plan amendments or construction design statements.
  • Deadlines for stack testing required by a range of air quality programs will be extended until 45 days after the DNR protocol expires.
  • Public water supplies will have until July 1, instead of April 1, to file required annual “public confidence reports.” Water plants must continue to meet health-based water quality standards.