Help Protect Iowa’s Lakes

Last summer, 150 Iowans took action and submitted comments in support of our petition that asked DNR to set standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the state’s recreation lakes. This pollution, which is primarily caused by farm runoff, produces dangerous algae blooms that make our water unsafe for swimmers and pets.

DNR denied our petition, stating that standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Iowa’s lakes were “not necessary at this time.” We disagree and suspect you do, too. Good news: Iowans now have another opportunity to weigh in on DNR’s water quality priorities.

This week, DNR will begin holding public water quality meetings across the state giving Iowans the opportunity to provide input on the agency’s work plan to improve Iowa’s water quality standards. Written comments are also being accepted through October 15, 2014.

Your input is extremely important because once finalized, this work plan will determine how DNR’s limited staff resources will be utilized over the next THREE YEARS.

Attend one of the meetings or submit written comments to DNR Water Quality Standards Coordinator Rochelle Weiss by email or mail:

Rochelle.Weiss@dnr.iowa.gov

Rochelle Weiss
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
502 East Ninth St.
Des Moines, IA  50319

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Spencer
Sept. 3, 4 to 6 p.m.
Spencer Public Library (Round Room), 21 East Third St.

Washington
Sept. 4, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Washington Public Library (Nicholas Stoufer Room), 115 West Washington

West Des Moines
Sept. 8, 10 to 12 p.m.
West Des Moines Public Library (Community Room), 4000 Mills Civic Parkway

Clear Lake
Sept. 9, 4 to 6 p.m.
Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Lakeview Room, 10 North Lakeview Drive

Independence
Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Falcon Civic Center, 1305 Fifth Ave. NE

Since 2006, Iowa DNR had recorded 114 instances of dangerous algae blooms at Iowa swimming beaches, including 22 warnings this summer alone. The worst algae bloom this summer occurred at Black Hawk Lake in Sac County where DNR posted warnings about toxic algae blooms for seven straight weeks, including Labor Day weekend.

Setting standards to limit nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that is causing frequent algae blooms in Iowa lakes is our top priority for improving Iowa’s Water Quality Standards. The problem is not going to go away until we take action to limit the pollution causing the algae blooms. Ask DNR to make setting standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution a priority, and protect our lakes for future generations of Iowans.

Registration now open

Registration for our 2014 Annual Conference, ENGAGE IN YOUR FUTURE: Creating a healthier, sustainable tomorrow, and our inaugural community engagement event, Pro H2O, is now open.

Pro H2O
October 8, 2014
7 p.m.
Science Center of Iowa

2014 Annual Conference
October 9, 2014
7:30 a.m. registration, 8:30 a.m. call to order
Drake University

This year’s conference, ENGAGE IN YOUR FUTURE: Creating a healthier, sustainable tomorrow, will delve into the latest developments to Invest in clean water, Expand clean energy and Confront climate change.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project Climate Change Communication, will kick off a day of networking and presentations sharing the latest developments and research in the environmental field. We have a great lineup this year, and will be announcing other speakers in the near future. Visit our website for additional conference information.

Discounted registration is available to Council members and students. Early bird registration is available through September 15, 2014. Join more than 200 of Iowa’s top environmental leaders and register today.

Interested in exhibiting at or sponsoring the conference? Learn more about exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities here.

Pro H2O

Since the founding of the Iowa Environmental Council nearly 20 years ago, the Council in partnership with its members, has made improving the quality of Iowa’s rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands a top priority.

From the small creeks and ponds on the farm and the edge of town where our children explore and play, to the large rivers and lakes where our families gather on the weekends to fish, swim and boat – clean water provides to our communities better quality of life and a healthier Iowa we can call home.

We invite you to make a splash with the Iowa Environmental Council. This inaugural event hosted at SCI invites you to play with your water, be wowed by the science fair, learn how you can make a difference, and ensure CLEAN WATER IN IOWA. Register today if you’re Pro H2O!

Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres from Gateway Market, a full service bar, a water-related science fair, special address by Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and general manager, and music entertainment provided by local musical act, MAIDS. Visit our website for additional event information.

We look forward to seeing you at these upcoming events!

DNR must be transparent and accountable in implementing CAFO rules

Next Tuesday, August 19, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will consider adopting rules for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). If adopted, these rules will require some confinement CAFOs that discharge manure to obtain Clean Water Act permits.  

We strongly support the full implementation of the Clean Water Act in Iowa. This includes requiring confinement CAFOs that discharge manure to obtain the permits that will be up for consideration at the EPC’s meeting next week.

However, we believe that in order for these rules to be effective, the DNR must establish clear criteria and processes for determining when a CAFO will or will not be designated as a “discharger” which must apply for a permit. It is critical that DNR provide the public with access to documentation detailing the decision making process that led to the determinations for individual facilities, as well as the ability to monitor enforcement of these permits.

Merely adopting these rules will not accomplish that.

Adoption of these rules simply affirms DNR’s responsibility to issue NPDES permits to CAFOs that discharge manure into Iowa’s waters. Without a transparent plan for implementation and enforcement, we will likely see more of the same pattern of repeated violations and increasingly polluted waters. We have formally submitted comments to DNR outlining our concerns and respectfully calling upon them to act.

The meeting, which will begin at 10 a.m. at the Wallace State Office Building Auditorium (502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines), is open to the public. Requests to speak must be submitted to Jerah Sheets at Jerah.Sheets@dnr.iowa.gov prior to the meeting or at the meeting prior to the start of public participation. Iowans that would like to submit comments but are unable to attend may do so via email, and their comments will be entered into the public record.

For more information about Tuesday’s meeting, including the full agenda, click here.

A Sunny Day for Solar in Iowa

The farm in Kalona is expected to generate enough energy to power about 120 homes.

The solar farm is expected to generate enough energy to power about 120 homes.

Farmer’s Electric Cooperative (FEC) has activated the largest solar energy project to date in Iowa – a solar farm located in Kalona – which was celebrated yesterday with an open house at the project site. Council staff, legislators, utilities, solar installers and environmental groups were in attendance to participate in what was yet another example in a recent string of exciting developments that signal that the future of solar in Iowa is bright.

At 800 kilowatts (kW), the solar photovoltaic (PV) array is almost three times the size of what is now the second largest solar project in the state, a solar field completed at Luther College in Decorah in 2013, indicating the rapid growth of  solar in Iowa. This project also puts FEC first among utilities in the U.S. for having the most solar PV installed per customer, reaffirming Iowa’s position at the forefront of renewable energy in the U.S..

What could be most important, however, is that FEC is proving that solar works when the customer, utility company or a combination of the two owns it.. FEC has been a leader in renewable energy for years, using different strategies to support customer ownership of wind and solar.

Thanks to this model, FEC’s customers have the option of installing solar on their own property and choosing renewable incentive rates (e.g., feed-in tariffs) or rebates to help offset the upfront cost of the project, greatly expanding access to solar.. Both strategies have resulted in projects owned by farmers, small businesses and residential customers in the service territory. Customers can also buy panels installed at FEC’s community solar project, the first of its kind in Iowa.

An aerial view of the impressive array.

An aerial view of the impressive array.

This new 800 kW solar project was developed jointly by FEC and the Iowa-based solar company Eagle Point Solar. All components and equipment were manufactured in the U.S, and the 4 acre construction project was aided by heavy equipment manufactured in Pella by Vermeer. Eagle Point retains ownership in the near term to take advantage of tax incentives that reduce the cost of the project, but FEC will own it for years to come – allowing the utility to meet long-term renewable energy goals earlier than anticipated.

The Council congratulates Farmer’s Electric Cooperative and Eagle Point on this important milestone, and looks forward to seeing the next largest solar project on the horizon in Iowa very soon.

Learn more about the Council’s work on solar energy.

Clean Sweep for the Iowa Environmental Council— Back to back Iowa Supreme Court Victories

Victory #1 — Clean Water regulation and Citizen Participation in State Government  

The Iowa Supreme Court today ruled today in favor of clean water by upholding Iowa’s Clean Water Anti-Degradation Standards. In a well-reasoned, and thoughtful decision, the Court   upheld the rulemaking process that established the state’s clean water anti-degradation standards, keeping rules in place that are designed to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes and waterways.

 The ruling ends the Farm Bureau’s lawsuit effort to delay or overturn the rules –which were enacted in an open and fair rulemaking process. As required by the federal Clean Water Act, Iowa’s common-sense anti-degradation standards will remain in place. Iowans are impatient on cleaning up impaired waters and preventing future pollution. Iowans can now focus on successfully implementing the rules and the ongoing work that will achieve clean water goals.

 “We are grateful to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Natural Resources and our environmental partners for standing up to the Farm Bureau’s efforts to throw out the rules,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council. “This issue is greater than clean water protection. This was an effort to shut out citizen participation in government by a powerful business interest like the Farm Bureau.”

 Four years ago, Iowa adopted strong “anti-degradation” standards – an important but often ignored part of the Clean Water Act designed to keep unnecessary pollution out of clean waterways. However, the Farm Bureau   challenged these important standards and even issued intrusive subpoenas to intimidate local environmentalists and challenge the Environmental Protection Commission by trying to disqualify one of its members, Susan Heathcote, water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council. Lower courts have since thrown out the Farm Bureau’s legal challenges.

 “This is a clear win for clean water and for open and fair government,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney Brad Klein, who argued the case before the Supreme Court. “We’re grateful that the Court rejected the Farm Bureau’s attempts to harass and intimidate the Council and Susan Heathcote. This important ruling means that we can put the Farm Bureau’s attempts to delay and distract behind us and move on to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes, rivers and streams.


 

Victory #2 Protecting Solar Energy Choice and Supporting Small Scale Renewable Energy

In the second of two victories for the Environmental Council, the Court ruled that Iowans can offer their roof space to solar energy developers and buy the power created from those panels. The Council, according to Ralph Rosenberg, “welcomes the decision which held that third party payer arrangements are an important option for expanding renewable energy, along with tax incentives, grants, loans and other financing mechanisms.”

“Today’s decision is a win for Iowans because it gives everyone the option to go solar affordably,” said Brad Klein, senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), who argued the case last spring on behalf of a large coalition of solar energy and environmental advocates. “Across the country, families, businesses and communities have gone solar with third-party ownership. Now, that opportunity can come to Iowa, too.”

In 2011, Alliant Energy argued that an agreement between Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar and the City of Dubuque violated the utility’s monopoly territory. Under the agreement, Eagle Point agreed to install and maintain solar panels on the Dubuque City Council building, the City would then pay Eagle Point for the energy created by those panels. The utility argued that the agreement, known as a third-party power purchase agreement (PPA) amounted to the creation of a utility. This claim was rejected by the court.

In his majority opinion, Justice Appel wrote that “Third-party PPAs like the one proposed by Eagle Point actually further one of the goals of regulated electric companies, namely, the use of energy efficient and renewable energy sources.”   

 Rosenberg, the Council director, noted that like the Farm Bureau case, this decision was thoughtful, well-reasoned and supported Iowa values and priorities of the Council—in this case, increasing the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy, while decreasing reliance on carbon based fuels.

 A recent report by the Iowa Environmental Council, Real Potential, Ready Today: Solar Energy in Iowa highlighted the significant potential for solar energy in Iowa. Iowa is already starting to see the rapid growth of solar–highlighted by the bi-partisan support for tripling of funding available for state tax credits for solar energy installation.

 “The fact that the court agrees with our analysis of the law means good things for the future of solar in Iowa,”   Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with ELPC’s Des Moines office added.

 

 The Iowa Supreme Court‘s full opinions are available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website.

 http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Supreme_Court_Opinions/Recent_Opinions/20140711/index.asp