A historic victory for REAP: What happened, what comes next?

Council Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg, center, addresses the assembled crowd at Environmental Lobby Day, March 18.

Nearly 150 Iowans participated in a clean water and conservation statehouse day held on March 18 with $25 million for REAP ranked high on the list of priorities.

The last day of April brought exciting news to Iowa’s conservation community as a sequence of bills adopted by the general assembly appropriated a record $25 million to Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program.  In a flurry of activity leading up to adjournment of the 85th General Assembly, the final vote on REAP funding did not take place until after 3:00 a.m. on May 1.

This is the first time in 25 years REAP has been “fully funded” by the Iowa legislature, meaning approved funds meet or exceed the authorized level, currently $20 million.  In all, funding approved will come from three sources:

  • $16 million through HF2458, the appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Department of Natural Resources.  This money comes from Iowa’s Environment First Fund.  It is noteworthy that controversial proposals in this bill to violate the spirit of the REAP funding formula and divert funds from the open spaces account were removed from the final bill.
  • $4 million through SF2349, appropriations from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
  • $5 million through SF2363, a bill making various one-time appropriations to a variety of programs, including REAP and several other conservation programs.

All three of these bills will require the Governor’s signature for $25 million in REAP funding to become law.  The Governor will have approximately 30 days to act on each bill, and appropriations bills are usually subject to strong review by the Governor’s office prior to being signed.

In addition to leadership shown by numerous conservation-minded legislators, Iowa’s REAP Program is supported by approximately 37,000 Iowans who have purchased natural resource license plates.  Last year and this year, hundreds of Iowans took part in a public participation process to make recommendations for the program’s future.

In March, the Iowa Environmental Council and Iowa REAP Alliance partnered with over 30 organizations to host a clean water and conservation rally at the statehouse.  An untold number of Iowans, through conservation organizations or acting independently, spoke out in favor of providing the program this historic funding level.

Thank you to all Iowans who spoke out to help make this progress.  We do know the work of protecting clean water and a healthy environment is not finished.  Together, we will continue to push for similar funding of REAP year after year.

Editor’s note:  Many environmental issues, including controversial provisions concerning confidentiality of water quality data in Iowa’s pollution reduction efforts, have seen action in the closing hours of the legislative session.  The Council will continue to summarize legislative action on a variety of issues in the coming days.

Iowa Environmental Council seeks climate/energy policy specialist

We often post job opportunities from across our coalition, but this opportunity is for the Council’s own team.

Energy and Climate policy specialist, Iowa Environmental Council

The Policy Specialist works with the Energy Program Director and other Council staff to conduct a range of activities that support adoption of a strong federal carbon pollution rule and a strong state implementation plan in Iowa. The Advocate will work with key stakeholders, including clean energy businesses, farmers, non-traditional allies and coalition partners (faith, labor, hunting and fishing), policy makers and regulators, and investor owned and consumer-owned utilities in order to build support for adoption and implementation of strong rules to reduce greenhouse emissions from power plants. Key activities include outreach, education and coalition-building; research, policy analysis, and advocacy with state agencies; coordination with state, regional, and national organizations; work with earned and social media.

The position is open until filled or May 20.  For details and to apply, visit the Council’s website.

Your calls are needed to close the deal for conservation funding

Your action is needed to close the deal for an important Iowa conservation program.

Your action is needed to close the deal for an important Iowa conservation program.

For much of the last year, Iowans have been working to support providing Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program, $25 million in support of its 25th anniversary year.  Despite having provided approximately $300 million in conservation funding to communities in all 99 counties, the legislature has never met is obligation to fully fund the program, meaning many more community-enhancing projects have been left unfunded.


We’ve removed the instructions for taking action here, because

Thanks to the quick action of Iowans like you, reap received funding at historic levels.  learn more >>


 

Want to be ready to protect clean water and Iowa’s environment right when it matters most?  Sign up for Iowa Environmental Council e-News and action alerts now.

Iowa Environmental Council welcomes three new board members

During elections in April, the Iowa Environmental Council’s organizational members approved three candidates to join the Council’s board:

Baxter

Baxter

Ross Baxter is a land projects associate at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation focusing on land acquisition projects throughout Iowa. An Iowa native from Alta Vista, he holds a BA from Iowa State University and a JD from Drake University Law School. Baxter will represent of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Feldstein

Feldstein

Sondra Krueger Feldstein operates SalAmander Farms near Bondurant, Iowa, which raises vegetables, seeds and transplants, and lamb for direct sale. About her farm, she writes, “My goal is to run a sustainable farm. With that in mind, my farming practices take into account the interrelated needs of yield; nutritional quality; soil health; insect & bird populations; water, soil and air pollution; and profitability.” Feldstein will represent Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Nordmeyer

Nordmeyer

Kevin Nordmeyer, AIA, LEED BD+C, is an associate principal at the Des Moines office of BNIM, a regional architectural firm based in Kansas City. Nordmeyer previously served as director of the Iowa Energy Center and has extensive experience in energy efficiency and renewable energy. He has previously served on the Council’s board. Nordmeyer will represent the American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter.

The Council’s board is made up of at large members who are selected for their expertise and passion for environmental issues in Iowa as well as representatives of the Council’s member organizations.  Each of these new board members will serve as organizational representatives.

At statehouse, Governor Branstad, Ag. Secretary Northey hail Iowa’s solar energy progress

Update:  In an exciting series of events, SF2340 passed both the Iowa House and Senate on April 24 and 25, and both chambers agreed to triple the credit to a cap of $4.5 million annually.  The bill is now in the hands of the Governor for signature.

Our previous story begins below:


Iowa is already a leader in wind energy and can use the same road map to become a leader in solar energy as well, said Governor Terry Branstad, addressing solar industry leaders April 9 in the statehouse rotunda.

solar“I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy items in our state,” the Governor said, noting that he and his staff are closely watching SF2340, a bill to expand Iowa’s solar tax credit pending in the legislature and are “hopeful” about its prospects.

The Governor made his remarks alongside Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey during Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa’s Solar Energy Trade Association, ISETA.

The Governor made his remarks as solar energy continues to show strong growth in Iowa, generating strong interest from electric customers around the state.  Secretary Northey and other lawmakers had the opportunity to see that growth up close on a tour of farm and rural solar installations held in Washington County on March 21. Watch coverage of the tour from KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids to learn how solar energy benefits farmers.

At the statehouse Wednesday, Secretary Northey also expressed support for expanding Iowa’s tax credit and reflected on his conversations with farmers in Washington County.

“All of them are excited about [solar],” he said.  “It’s working the way they wanted it to work; they’re seeing the numbers they thought they wanted to see.”

Tour participants gather in front of a 17 kW array at Paul Reed's farm in Washington County.  From left to right: Ken Reed, Paul Reed, Unidentified, Rep. Sally Stutsman, Rep. Dave Maxwell, Rep. Curtis Hanson, Tim Dwight, iPower, Rep. Jarad Klein,  Denny Harding, Iowa Farm Bureau, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Sen. Ken Rozenboom

Tour participants gather in front of a 17 kW array at Paul Reed’s farm in Washington County. From left to right: Ken Reed, Paul Reed, Unidentified, Rep. Sally Stutsman, Rep. Dave Maxwell, Rep. Curtis Hanson, Tim Dwight, iPower, Rep. Jarad Klein,
Denny Harding, Iowa Farm Bureau, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Sen. Ken Rozenboom.

The March tour was the fourth in a series hosted by local legislators and sponsored by the Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and ISETA.  Most recently, in November, legislators attended a tour of Des Moines-area installations.

Many Iowa lawmakers are taking note of solar energy’s promise in the state.  The bill to triple Iowa’s solar energy tax credit, SF2340, passed the Iowa Senate unanimously on March 27.

Soon after, two Senators, Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) and Mike Breitbach, (R-Strawberry Point), explained their support of the bill in a Des Moines Register op-ed:

“Clean local power is something all kinds of Iowans can agree on — families, farmers and businesspeople; rural residents and city dwellers; even Republicans and Democrats.” … “Iowans recognize the growing potential to save money while generating power where they live and work.  Lawmakers are realizing they can help. Together, we can build a brighter energy future for Iowa — and a stronger economy as well.”

Governor Branstad held a ceremonial signing ceremony recognizing the passage of the new solar tax credits on Tuesday, June 26.

Governor Branstad (seated) held a ceremonial signing of the new solar tax credits in June 2012.  Since then, demand for credits has surged.

Since Governor Branstad signed Iowa’s solar tax credit into law in 2012, $2.84 million through the program has supported 622 solar projects worth more than $24 million.

Demand for the tax credit has dramatically increased in the last year, more than doubling from 2012 to 2013, and exceeding the tax credit program’s cap by almost $700,000.

Strong demand for tax credits is just one piece of evidence that Iowa’s use of solar is taking off.  Already, an Iowa Environmental Council analysis of utility records for our report Real Potential, Ready Today: Solar Energy in Iowa showed that the number of solar energy installations connected in Alliant and MidAmerican Energy’s service territories grew from fewer than ten in 2009 to more than 80 in 2012.

As a result of this growth, solar installers are seeing increasing interest from customers.  The Solar Foundation estimates the number of solar jobs in Iowa more than tripled from 210 in 2012 to 680 in 2013.

During the Iowa Senate’s debate on SF2340, Iowa Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) told a story about just how much growth has occurred in the solar industry in a very short period of time.  Six years ago, Hogg said, the largest Iowa array was a 7 kW array at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa.  He described the industry’s growth since:

“Hundreds of businesses, farmers and homeowners across the state have systems that are 7 kilowatts or larger. Hundreds. The largest photovoltaic array in Iowa is at Luther College, in Senator Breitbach’s district, 280 kilowatts 40 times larger. And later this year, in Senator Greiner’s district, Farmers Electric Co-op is going to break ground on an 800 kilowatt unit, more than 100 times larger than what just less than six years ago was the largest array in our state.”

Increasing Iowa’s use of solar energy is an important part of boosting the state’s overall use of clean energy, yet even with favorable policy and continued growth in the industry, Iowa has tapped only a small part of solar energy’s potential for our state.  In fact, the total amount of energy Iowa could produce from solar panels exceeds the state’s total energy use by more than 150 times over.