Your voice is needed to build Iowa’s leadership in renewable energy

solar

If you own or plan to own a renewable energy installation, your voice is especially important now.

Update [2/24]:  Due to continued problems with its electronic filing system, the Iowa Utilities Board has extended the public comment period by one day.  The board released a statement on the topic that read, in part:  “Because of a recent fire in another state government building, the Board’s electronic filing system (EFS) has experienced some unscheduled down time. Therefore, the Board will extend the deadline for filing responses to February 26, 2014.”

Last month, the Iowa Utilities Board announced a “Notice of Inquiry” to gather information on distributed generation of renewable energy in Iowa.  The notice of inquiry allows the Board to gather information, and evidence suggests some participants want to use this opportunity to dismantle or block important policies supporting distributed wind and solar energy in Iowa.

Iowa’s policy regarding distributed generation affects the state’s ability to lead in renewable energy and to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. For Iowans who have installed wind turbines or solar panels, or want to in the future, these policies govern your relationship with your electric utility and how you are compensated for energy you produce.

This inquiry is your opportunity to tell the Iowa Utilities Board you want take advantage of the substantial and largely untapped potential for solar and wind growth in our state.  You can help build Iowa’s national leadership in renewable energy by submitting your comment to the Board today.

Find out how to submit a comment after the jump.

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Iowa considering turtle harvest season; public comments are needed

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is considering a turtle harvest season to protect female turtles while they are nesting.  The Council has received the following information about this effort from the DNR via the Raccoon River Watershed Association, a Council member organization:

There have been preliminary meetings with commercial turtle harvesters and others concerning the establishment of a season to harvest wild turtles (snapping, softshells and painted) from July 16 – December 31.  Currently the turtle season is open year around for those three species.  One hundred pounds of live turtles or 50 lbs. of dressed turtle is permitted for those who have a sport fishing license.  Turtles harvested with a sport fishing license cannot be sold.

There is no limitation on the number of pounds of turtles a person can harvest with a commercial harvester license.  The fee for a commercial harvester license is $100.  The DNR does restrict the method of take and gear attendance.

The purpose for the possible season is to protect females during most of their egg laying season.  Justification for this is given below.  Stakeholders have until February 23, 2014 to provide comments to Martin Konrad at this email address: Martin.Konrad@dnr.iowa.gov

Iowa’s turtle populations are unlikely to sustain the current level of commercial harvest because:

1.      Turtle life history (e.g., longevity, age at maturity, low reproductive output, heavy nest predation, and low hatchling survival) suggests that they are vulnerable to overharvest.

2.      The number of licensed turtle harvesters has been steadily increasing from 1987-2013.

3.      Turtle harvest (for all commercial species) has been steadily increasing from 1987-2013.

4.      Annual harvest per licensed commercial trapper has gradually decreased from 1987-2013.

5.      Iowa has historically lost (and continues to lose) aquatic and nesting habitat.

6.      The demand of overseas markets (particularly the Chinese market) is high and increasing.

7.      There is ample evidence demonstrating the overharvest of turtles occurs where there was little or no regulation (e.g., multiple species in Southeast Asia, alligator snapping turtles in the southeast United States, bog turtles in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, and sea turtles in the U.S. and beyond).

Emerald Ash Borer confirmed in Waterloo, statewide quarantine in effect

From a press release by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources:

An Emerald Ash Borer. (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Wikimedia Commons)

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been positively identified in a residential tree in Waterloo, making this the sixth location where the invasive beetle has been found in Iowa.

The current EAB infestation was found by city employees performing routine trimming on street trees. Further investigation found additional trees infested in a 10 square block area on the northeast side of Waterloo.

A statewide quarantine will be issued on Tuesday, restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash logs, wood chips and ash tree nursery stock out of Iowa into non-quarantined areas of other states.
Waterloo’s urban forest includes 4,364 ash trees located on public property.  The three city-owned golf courses have 649 ash trees; the 52 parks contain 725 ash trees; and there are 2,990 ash trees along the street rights-of-way.

“This is a devastating blow to Waterloo’s tree resources as we will be losing 17 percent of the trees on public property over the next few years.  It will also be quite a challenge for the forestry staff to absorb these tree removals in their day-to-day duties and still provide a fraction of the services that Waterloo citizens are used to,” said Waterloo city forester, Todd Derifield.

Previously, the Iowa Environmental Council reported advice on responding to the widening Emerald Ash Borer infestation provided by Trees Forever, a Council member organization.

New report highlights threats to clean water, recreation and tourism from NE Iowa frac sand mining

From a press release by the Iowa Policy Project, a Council member organization:

Potential impacts on water quantity, water quality, recreation and tourism have prompted necessary questions about the mining of Iowa sand for fracking, researchers say.

In a new report for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project (IPP), researchers Aaron Kline and David Osterberg point out the environmental and aesthetic assets of Northeast Iowa may be threatened by the growing attraction of the area for this specialty sand mining.

“Trout fishing enthusiasts should be worried — but so should anyone who drinks water in the northeastern corner of Iowa. And they are,” said Osterberg, founding director and an environment and energy researcher at IPP. “Local leaders in Winneshiek and Allamakee counties have questions, and given the potential long-term impacts of this mining industry, they deserve answers.”

The new report notes the so-called “frac sand” mining industry swept through Wisconsin in recent years, and areas of both southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa have deposits of the same kind of sand sought by the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” industry.


Learn about the Iowa Policy Project’s findings
or download the full report.


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Amanda Samuelson welcomed as Council’s new development director

Amanda Samuelson

Samuelson

The Iowa Environmental Council has appointed Amanda Samuelson as Director of Development. Her focus at the Council will be to oversee its individual and corporate giving programs, grant procurement activities and strategy planning aimed at growing financial support for the organization.  Her first day was January 27.

“Along with the Council’s board and staff, I am excited to serve the Council’s extensive community of dedicated supporters, in order to advance the organizational mission to secure a safe, healthy environment and sustainable future for Iowa,” Samuelson said.

Native of Osceola, Iowa, Samuelson is a graduate of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.  She has extensive non-profit development, community relations and public policy experience at state and federal levels, most recently in her role for local nonprofit and pediatric special healthcare provider ChildServe. 

At the Council, Samuelson will create and implement purposeful development plans focused on relationship building in order to meet the Council’s annual funding needs and facilitate future goals capacity.

“This is a very interesting time in Iowa’s environmental community—in the area of renewable energy, where Iowans are so excited about the progress we have made with wind energy, or in clean water, where we feel an urgent need to improve our efforts.  It is a privilege to support these important efforts,” she said.

Outside the Council, Samuelson is active in her faith community and enjoys golfing, Iowa wines, and exploring the many cultural offerings of Iowa communities while traveling the state with her family and friends.