Goodell v. Humboldt County

Decision Date05 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-790,97-790
Citation575 N.W.2d 486
PartiesLloyd GOODELL, Dennis Goodell, and Scott Goodell, Appellants, v. HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Iowa, and Doug Wood, Appellees. HUMBOLDT COUNTY LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS, et al., Appellants, v. HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Iowa, et al., Appellees.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Eldon L. McAfee of Beving, Swanson & Forrest, P.C., Des Moines, for appellants Humboldt County Livestock Producers, et al.

Brian L. Wirt and Gary M. Myers of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C., Des Moines, for appellants Lloyd Goodell, Dennis Goodell, and Scott Goodell.

James E. Brick of Brick, Gentry, Bowers, Swartz, Stoltze, Schuling & Levis, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

Paul S. Swinton of Morain, Burlingame & Pugh, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for amici curiae Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Dairy Products Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Institute for Cooperatives, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Soybean Association, and Iowa Turkey Federation, and Christina L. Gault of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, West Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Considered en banc.

TERNUS, Justice.

The regulation of livestock confinement operations is a matter of growing public debate in this state. In the case before us, livestock producers have challenged four ordinances adopted by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that regulate large livestock confinement facilities and operations. The plaintiffs claim the ordinances are invalid because they address a matter of statewide concern, and because the county's authority has been preempted by the Iowa legislature. The defendants seek to sustain the validity of the ordinances as a valid exercise of the county's home rule authority. The district court upheld all but one section of one ordinance. Because we conclude the county's authority to enact these ordinances has been preempted by the legislature, we reverse the district court's ruling and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

A. The ordinances. In October of 1996, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors adopted four ordinances applicable to "large livestock confinement feeding facilities." 1 Each ordinance addresses a different matter of concern to the county: (1) ordinance 22 imposes a permit requirement prior to construction or operation of a regulated facility; (2) ordinance 23 establishes financial security requirements; (3) ordinance 24 implements groundwater protection policies; and (4) ordinance 25 governs toxic air emissions from regulated facilities. We will highlight the pertinent provisions of each ordinance.

1. Ordinance 22--permit requirement. Ordinance 22 requires any person who desires to construct a large livestock confinement feeding facility to obtain a "notice of construction or operation" before construction or operation of the facility commences. 2 The owner or operator of the proposed facility must file a completed application with the Humboldt County auditor containing the following information: (1) a blueprint of the facility; (2) a statement of manure management, including a manure disposal plan; (3) the parties who will supervise the construction and initial operation of the facility; (4) a plan for runoff management; (5) identification of agricultural drainage tile lines and the remedial measures to be taken to protect their integrity; and (6) identification of agricultural drainage wells, natural sinkholes, artificial open drainage ditches, ponds, streams, lakes, marshlands, and quarries that may be affected by the new building.

The auditor is required to forward the application to the Humboldt County environmental protection officer. If the application is complete, the environmental protection officer conducts an independent investigation to ensure the proposed facility "complies with all applicable statutes, ordinances, and regulations." Once the environmental protection officer concludes the facility complies, the application is forwarded to the county board of supervisors; at the same time, neighboring property owners are also informed of the pending application. After a thirty-day period for public comment, the board must issue a permit if the requirements of the ordinance have been satisfied.

Any person who begins construction or operation of a regulated facility without the required permit is guilty of a county infraction punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $100 for each day the person is in violation of the ordinance. In addition, the ordinance provides the county may seek relief under Iowa Code section 331.307 (1995). 3 Section 331.307 allows the court, in any action for a county infraction, (1) to order the defendant to abate or cease the violation, or (2) to authorize the county to abate or correct the violation, with the costs of such abatement or correction assessed against the defendant. See Iowa Code § 331.307(9)(c)-(e).

2. Ordinance 23--financial assurance. This ordinance provides that "no person shall operate any large livestock confinement feeding facility within Humboldt County without first providing to the [b]oard [f]inancial [a]ssurance as required under this [o]rdinance." The financial assurance required by ordinance 23 may be in the form of a surety bond, insurance, or self-insurance. The mechanism chosen must insure that funds necessary to meet the costs of cleanup and remediation for on-site and off-site contamination are available when needed. The ordinance provides a formula for calculating the projected cleanup and remediation costs. The penalties for violation of ordinance 23 are the same as specified in ordinance 22. 4

3. Ordinance 24--groundwater protection. This ordinance applies to large livestock confinement feeding operations that apply livestock manure on land. It provides, in part:

No person whose facility is subject to this [o]rdinance shall land apply livestock manure on any land in Humboldt County that drains into an agricultural drainage well or sinkhole in a manner that results in the contamination of groundwater.

In addition to this prohibition, ordinance 24 requires that a regulated facility obtain from the county's environmental protection officer a permit to apply livestock manure on land draining into agricultural drainage wells or sinkholes.

The ordinance also provides that the county will annually test such wells and sinkholes to ensure they have not been contaminated by livestock manure. If contamination occurs, the facility's permit for land application of livestock manure is automatically suspended. Any person who land applies livestock manure without the required permit is guilty of a county infraction with the same penalties and relief provided in ordinance 22.

4. Ordinance 25--toxic air emissions. Article one of ordinance 25 prescribes the minimum distance that regulated facilities may be located from any residence, other facility, or public use area "if the regulated facility is not able to confine toxic air emissions on site." Article two prohibits regulated facilities from any off-site emission of hydrogen sulfide concentrations in excess of a specified level. If emissions exceed this level, the facility owner or operator must redesign the project, add abatement equipment, or close the facility. The penalties for violation of this ordinance mirror those of the other ordinances.

B. The lawsuit. This litigation is the consolidation of two actions for declaratory judgment that challenged the county's ordinances. One action was brought by the Humboldt County Livestock Producers and several of its members against the county, the board of supervisors, the individual board members, and the county zoning administrator, who also serves as the county's environmental protection officer. A second action against the county and the zoning administrator was filed by Lloyd Goodell, Dennis Goodell and Scott Goodell, residents of Humboldt County who planned to construct hog confinement facilities falling within the ordinances' definition of "large livestock confinement feeding operation." 5 Both actions sought a declaratory judgment from the district court that the challenged ordinances were invalid and violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

The ruling from which this appeal was taken resulted from the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment on the question of the county's authority to adopt the ordinances. (The constitutional claims were reserved for later consideration by the court.) The district court concluded that article one of ordinance 25, imposing minimum distances between regulated facilities and other facilities, residences and public use areas, constituted zoning of land and buildings used for agricultural purposes. The court ruled this part of ordinance 25 violated Iowa Code section 335.2, which prohibits counties from zoning agricultural land and structures. As a consequence, the court declared article one of ordinance 25 invalid, and granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs as to this provision.

The district court ruled ordinances 22, 23, and 24 were valid exercises of the county's home rule authority. Although the court also upheld article two of ordinance 25, the court concluded it was unenforceable until the county had complied with Iowa Code section 455B.145. 6 See Iowa Code § 455B.145 (requiring local governmental entities to obtain a certificate of acceptance from the Department of Natural Resources for any local air pollution control program). Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment to the county with respect to these ordinances, with the limitation noted as to ordinance 25.

In response to all parties' motions for an enlargement of the court's findings pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 179(b), the court issued an order holding that its ruling was dispositive of all issues in...

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