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Iowa Okays Less Restrictive UST Rules

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A lawyer for one of Iowa's most powerful environmental groups blasted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for whittling away protections for water wells under a deal backed by convenience-store interests, according to a report in the Des Moines Register.

"The DNR again has been manhandled by the polluters," Wallace Taylor, a Cedar Rapids attorney representing the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club, told the newspaper.

The governor-appointed Iowa Environmental Protection Commission voted unanimously to approve an agreement that abandoned new rules that would have required owners of underground storage tanks, notably convenience stores such as Casey's General Stores and Kum & Go, to pay for more monitoring of gas plumes near water wells.

Instead, the commission agreed to a five-year study of the problem that will cost up to $1.5 million. The research will be paid for with fees paid by motorists at the pump, not tank owners or their private insurers.

Board members who oversee the Legislature-appointed tank fund had argued that more research will ensure the wells are protected, while saving tank owners unnecessary expense. But the deal also carried another controversial element: The DNR, which regulates those who have underground petroleum tanks, would receive $385,000 to bolster its own monitoring from the tank fund board—which includes convenience store interests—when it passed.

The newspaper had previous reported on workers in the DNR's underground storage tank section—those closest to the environmental protection work—expressing concern that convenience-store interests were using the $385,000 donation to the state agency to scrap the rule.

Douglas Beech, a lawyer for Casey's General Stores and a tank-fund board member, told the newspaper last week that tank owners shouldn't have to pay for environmental damage that could have come from other sources. Store owners also doubted the costly monitoring would turn up actual pollution threats at wells near the plumes.

More research should solve that question, Beech said.
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