The DENR’s Report to the Legislature

At the beginning of the legislative session, each administrative department gives a report to the corresponding legislative committee. Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources presented to the House and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees.

The paper copy of the report is below. Largely, there are three takeaways:

  1. The DENR continues to take on more work without raising the budget or additional employees. Generally speaking this is a good thing; however, we’ve run into instances where the DENR has said things like “we don’t have the expertise to regulate uranium mining,” and then allowed the legislature to hand over control of waste disposal wells to the EPA. Hiring additional expertise is not always a bad thing, particularly when it allows the state to have more local control.
  2. And on that note, takeaway #2 is the litany of grievances the DENR has against the Federal government and its agencies (like the EPA) for what it sees as over-regulation. There is certainly some truth to this, but one must question unquestioned resistance to Federal regulation. One example: Secretary Pirner stated in the hearings, and states on page 17 of the report below, that there is no reason for South Dakota to do perchlorate testing in ground water because it isn’t a problem in this state. However, percholrates were found in groundwater in 2005 and in soil tests in 2008. So clearly it is something that exists in South Dakota, yet the DENR maintains we should be exempt from the rule.
  3. The third takeaway has to do with the development of the CAFO general permit, the one the DENR has not updated since it expired in 2008. The DENR maintains it was waiting for the “dust to settle from litigation” before they updated SD’s general permit, though the most recent significant challenge to the revised CAFO rules passed in 2008 was settled back in 2011. Whatever the reason, the DENR did not begin the process of updating SD’s general permit until 2015.In April, the DENR brought together “interested parties” to start talking about updating the permit. Despite knowing Dakota Rural Action and the SD Farmer’s Union would be interested in participating in the process, neither organization was invited to the discussions. What that resulted in was Dakota Rural Action intervening in the process when it finally went public (long after the DENR had spoken to who knows what other “interested parties”). Unfortunately, DRA’s lawyer had a conflict with the date set by the DENR, a date set without discussing options for a hearing date with any of the parties, and DRA requested a later date in a Motion to Continue. This is relatively standard procedure, and considering DRA was not invited to participate in previous discussions about the general permit, it would have been inappropriate for the DENR to not grant DRA’s motion.Despite those facts, the statements put forth by the DENR strongly suggest DRA was unprepared and is responsible for the DENR not meeting its goal of approving a new general permit in 2015. To the contrary, had DRA been involved in discussions from the beginning, it is highly likely there would be a current CAFO general permit in South Dakota. The organization has been pushing for well over a year for the DENR to update their permit; unfortunately, though the DENR knew that, DRA and its farmer and rancher members were shut out of the process.

You can listen to the presentation given to the House here and the Senate here. And for your enjoyment, here is the report:

DENR Report



  1. Bill Powers says:

    The very fact that DRA is not among the very first that comes to mind when the DENR is looking for “interested parties,” should be a strong indication of how much the DRA’s opinion and advice will influence any decision the DENR has to make. I would imagine that the DENR believes that it already knows what DRA will have to say; and it already knows what to do with it. As such, the chief purpose of these meetings for the DRA is not to influence the DENR, but to make public its concerns. What the DRA needs to do is to come up with a different tune, something that may surprise both the DENR and the public. These hearings are not court hearings. No one has to prove what they assert. So DRA must challenge claims made by others without the ability to cross examine. The politics of such hearings is more than I can know, but are surely what is really at stake here.

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