Jeff Boeyink, Gov. Terry Branstad’s chief of staff
A former chief of staff to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and a former Republican lawmaker helped grease the skids for C6-Zero, a company with a “checkered history” in other states whose Marengo plant blew up in December.
In the seven months leading up to the December 8, 2022 explosion and fire that injured 15 people and left environmental chaos in its wake, Jeff Boeyink – a partner at PR and lobbying firm LS2group in Des Moines and Branstad’s chief of staff by 2010 through 2013 – wrote at least 10 times to Iowa DNR leaders and Marengo officials on behalf of C6-Zero to answer questions, address concerns, and invite officials to tour the site, according to emails received by The Gazette has.
C6-Zero’s relationship with regulators has gone from hostile — an Iowa DNR warden said on May 13, 2022 he was considering obtaining a search warrant because the company would not allow an inspector on site — to friendly within a few Weeks after Boeyink got his job, the emails show.
“It is a great relief to learn that C6 has reached out to you and your company for support, and it was very helpful to hear from their advisor for the first time,” Kurt Levetzow, environmental supervisor for the Iowa DNR office in Washington , Iowa wrote to Boeyink on May 31, 2022.
Those responses were included in 141 emails The Gazette received as part of a request to the Iowa DNR, which is now suing C6-Zero to force the cleanup of the blast site, where petroleum products and other chemicals leaked into the water and soil .
Few people knew about the large chemical depots that acted like a ticking time bomb at the Marengo site. The big question, however, is why Boeyink, who has touted his work with prominent Iowa companies like the Iowa Fertilizer Co., would lend his credibility to C6-Zero and owner Howard Brand III, which has been prosecuted in two states.
Boeyink has not called back or responded to an email from The Gazette in the past week.
Inspectors stayed away
Before C6-Zero was allowed to recycle clapboards at a Marengo warehouse, the Iowa DNR wanted to know exactly how the company planned to do it, what chemicals it would use, and what waste it might produce, emails sent to the company said back to April 2022.
The photo was taken on April 31, 2021 by Howard Brand III at the Iowa County Jail where he was arrested on a Texas warrant. (Iowa County Jail)
Brand was arrested in Iowa County in April 2021 to face charges in Texas for illegal disposal of shingles. He was also convicted in Lake County, Montana, in 2011 for writing a bad check, records show. Officials from Colorado and Idaho had contacted the Iowa DNR about environmental concerns about Brand’s previous operations.
Howard Brand Montana from Gazetteonline on Scribd
“Josh Sobaski of FO6 (field office 6) will be visiting the facility on site in the coming days, maybe this week or early next week to get a feel for what’s happening inside and at least outside the facility,” Levetzow told the town clerk Karla Marck in an April 7 email.
When Sobaski went to Marengo on April 13, C6-Zero attorney Tim Dore turned him down.
“Tim explained that I have no right to be on site and they have no intention of doing anything in the future that requires interaction with the department,” Sobaski wrote.
Ryan Stouder, a senior air and waste program director, stopped at C6-Zero in early May and was also not allowed in, prompting Levetzow to warn Iowa County Deputy Sheriff Todd Sauerbrei that he could seek a search warrant .
“Next time we go, we’ll get a search warrant,” Levetzow wrote on May 13. “Todd – I’ll see you when that happens (if you don’t mind).”
The Iowa DNR has never sought a search warrant from C6-Zero, Iowa County Sheriff Rob Rotter said.
GOP lobbyists step in
The state agency scheduled a video meeting with C6-Zero for May 26, awaiting responses on the Marengo operation at that time. Boeyink wrote on May 24 asking to be included.
“Gentleman. I wanted to bring your attention to the fact that LS2group has been hired by C6-Zero to help them navigate the regulatory environment here in Iowa so they can establish their business in Marengo,” Boeyink wrote to Alex Moon, DNR associate director of Iowa, and Ed Tormey, administrator of the agency’s Environmental Services Division.
“I understand there is a rich history here and I want to assure you that LS2group will guide you to honor and comply with the rules and regulations in this state,” Boeyink wrote. “I think you know that we’ve done similar work with the Iowa Fertilizer Company, Iowa Premium Beef and Lehigh Hanson Cement and we’re not about to cut any corners.”
Also representing C6-Zero at the May 26 meeting was Chris Rants, a Republican who served in the Iowa House from 1993 to 2010 and served as Speaker of the House for four years. Rants, now a lobbyist for PolicyWorks, a West Des Moines company, did not return an email or voicemail for this article.
Chris Rants, former Republican leader of the House of Representatives
C6-Zero is withholding information
Tim Hall, coordinator of hydrology resources for the Iowa DNR, took notes during the meeting.
Spent shingles are delivered by semi-truck or boxcar and stored indoors, Hall noted in a May 27 email. To process up to 800 pounds of shingles per day, workers placed them on a conveyor belt and removed staples and trash before the shingles went into a liquid tank to “put through an ambient-temperature dissolution process.”
The goal was to recycle the shingles into oil, sand, and fiberglass components that C6-Zero wanted to sell. Hall noted that while C6-Zero wanted to protect the formulation of its solvent, “confidentiality is not a valid reason for withholding specific chemical or process information from DNR personnel.”
Boeyink contacted state officials after the meeting.
“At C6-Zero, I’m aware of the issues that have been encountered in other states. Please trust that I would not have taken on this work if I had not believed in their commitment to making things right here in Iowa,” he told Levetzow May 27.
Boeyink invited state and local officials to tour the facility in August. First, according to an Aug. 22 email, he wanted them to sign non-disclosure agreements.
“We don’t sign non-disclosure agreements,” Tormey replied. “As you know, there is a trade secret procedure under Iowa law that would protect information obtained from the DNR from disclosure.”
Boeyink said C6-Zero is satisfied and the tour is scheduled for November 9th.
The Iowa DNR had not yet approved a permit for the site and was awaiting key information, such as the ingredients in their solvent and how C6-Zero would filter air emissions, emails show.
Fire in October raises the alarm
Just before 1 p.m. on Oct. 25, sparks from a welding torch ignited a tank of diesel fuel at C6-Zero, causing a fire, according to a report by Iowa County Emergency Management Coordinator Josh Humphrey. He wrote to Elonda Bacon, who is tracking large caches of chemicals for the Iowa DNR as part of the state’s Tier 2 program.
“I have a question about a facility in Marengo that I’m not Tier 2 from and I think they should get in touch,” he wrote Oct. 26. “We had a fire there yesterday and it was interesting to say the least as we had no precise idea what was in it.”
When Levetzow asked Boeyink about the fire on October 27, Boeyink replied that “the fire was small and quickly contained.”
State, county and local officials arrived for the tour on November 9th. They saw part of the facility, but before they could see an area with the conveyor belt and chemical tanks, they were told there was a water leak and the rest of the tour would be postponed.
“I thought things were going well until they ushered us all out of the building at 11:36 a.m.,” Levetzow wrote to City Clerk Marck on Nov. 9. “I found that quite bizarre. We had all sorts of questions to ask them but didn’t have the opportunity.”
On December 5, three days before the explosion, Levetzow wrote to Boeyink to see if he was still working for C6-Zero. Boeyink said yes.
Levetzow expressed concern that C6-Zero had not shown the back end of operations to the Iowa DNR and asked Boeyink to find out what chemicals were used.
“Firefighters are still concerned about Tier 2 reporting as they still have no idea what type of materials are being stored at the facility… should another fire or spill occur… they need to know what they are dealing with.” to have.”
Boeyink replied the same day: “I will continue with Tim on these points.”
Searches for Iowa DNR records turned up no additional emails to or from Boeyink after Dec. 5, the agency said. Whether he still works for C6-Zero is unclear.
The Gazette asked C6-Zero how Boeyink came about and what role he played in the company. Spokesman Mark Corallo did not respond to an email and voice message.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave C6-Zero until Tuesday to respond to a request, which led to, among other things, a December 8 explosion, a damage estimate, and the composition of the chemicals used.
The company had not answered those questions as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the EPA confirmed. If the company does not respond, the EPA may institute penalties or other enforcement actions.
A hearing will be held in Iowa County on February 6th on the Iowa Attorney General’s request for an injunction to force C6-Zero to comply with a December 15th emergency order issued by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This order required C6-Zero to clean up the Marengo blast and fire site within 45 days, that is, by Sunday.
Although C6-Zero submitted an environmental assessment plan, that plan called for remediation by March. It’s not clear if that timeline would apply, considering work at the site has virtually come to a standstill, according to local officials.
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