Tag Archives: clean water

2015 Iowa Legislative Session in Review

Iowa State Capitol
After several weeks of back and forth negotiations, the 2015 Iowa Legislature reached a budget agreement and adjourned earlier this month.

In all, modest but important legislation that supports a more sustainable future was advanced – much of which now awaits the Governor’s signature –but funding and legislative action to support clean water initiatives and expand clean energy left much unfinished business.

Clean Energy

This session, energy staff focused on continuing to build momentum for growth and expanded access to clean energy in Iowa. This work culminated in the passage HF645. This modest but important bill, which currently awaits the Governor’s signature, would increase available solar energy tax incentive funds from $4.5M to $5M and make improvements to the 476C production tax credit for solar energy, which can be used to support community solar energy projects. If signed into law, HF645 will improve access to solar energy for businesses, farmers, homeowners and utilities.

>>Ask Gov. Branstad to expand access to solar energy by signing HF645<<

The Council supported legislation that would expand and improve tax incentives for wind energy. While these bills did not pass, key bills remain alive for the 2016 session. There were successes for wind energy however, as bills designed to stop critical infrastructure improvements for expanding wind energy – new transmission lines intended for wind – also did not pass.

Finally, the Council helped improve a bill, HF 548, that would have imposed expensive and unnecessary requirements on customers installing solar or other forms of distributed generation. A less burdensome version of the bill did pass that requires the Iowa Utilities Board to initiate a rulemaking. The Council will be actively involved in the rulemaking to reduce potential new barriers to distributed renewable energy.

Clean Water

This session, water program staff focused on strengthening and securing sustainable funding for initiatives to improve water quality and reduce pollutants. We joined other conservation-focused groups to push for funding the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Although we were not able to get a bill passed, both chambers filed bills – SF504 and HSB256. Both bills remain alive for the 2016 session.

We continued to convey the need to fully fund the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program at $20 million. However, the Legislature ultimately voted to maintain a three-year status quo and funded REAP at $16 million.

We also advocated for increased oversight, transparency and funding for water quality monitoring in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s (NRS) Water Quality Initiative (WQI) projects. Funding for WQI projects was allocated at $9.6M, a $2.1M increase from last year, and $450,000 is designated for water quality monitoring equipment and testing. However, the NRS suggests initial investments ranging from $1.2 to $4B, and annual ongoing investments ranging from $756M to $1.2B are needed to meet the 45 percent reduction goal. Iowans are still waiting for substantial, sustainable funding needed to have a meaningful impact on water quality across the state.

We share many of Iowans’ growing and urgent concerns about the state of our land, water and climate, and recognize the importance of that which we were able to accomplish thanks to Iowans that advocated for the environment this session. We are disappointed that more was not accomplished this session to protect and preserve Iowa’s natural resources, but know the work done on behalf of the environment this session lays the foundation for progress in the future.

Council to celebrate early leaders at Pro H2O

This Thursday, June 11, we will honor Mark Ackelson, Linda Appelgate, Buz Brenton, Charlotte Hubbell, David Hurd and David Osterberg, six of the Iowa Environmental Council’s early leaders, at Pro H2O – Celebrating 20 Years. These individuals helped shape and define the Council, setting it on course to become the organization it is today.

Reflecting on the past two decades, our honorees each shared some thoughts about the Council and its work.

David Osterberg“The Council starts with policy discussions, follows with proposed legislation, lobbies our issues and follows up when rules are written by state agencies. This complete environmental policy making entity has shown results over 20 years. Iowa’s environment is better because of the Council.”David Osterberg


Hurd-David-web“I would hate to think today, with the growing environmental issues all around us, where we would be as a state without the Iowa Environmental Council. The diligence, commitment, hard work and focus of the Council’s valuable staff, under Ralph Rosenberg’s guidance, has moved us forward on water quality and other critical issues that affect the quality of life in our state for all citizens.”
David Hurd

Charlotte Hubbell“I don’t know of any other environmental organization in Iowa that monitors dozens of bills in the state legislature affecting, or possible affecting, the environment, and then reaches out to its membership to keep them informed about what’s going on. Also, litigation, regretfully, at times is the only way to resolve conflicts. The Council is the only Iowa environmental organization I know of that has successfully litigated two cases. We don’t engage in litigation very often, twice in 20 years, but when we do, we seem to be on the right side.” – Charlotte Hubbell

Buz Brenton

“The Iowa Environmental Council is a very worthwhile organization with much potential. Further inclusiveness might be an agenda item to include for the future.” –  Buz Brenton

“The Iowa Environmental Council is unique in its strong focus on science and its effectiveness in bringing together diverse groups and individuals who Appelgate-Linda-webwant strong environmental protections for all to live and thrive in a healthy landscape. The Council is respected and powerful because it speaks out strongly and honestly for the policies and funding needed to assure those protections.”
Linda Appelgate

Mark Ackelson

“I was honored to help launch the Iowa Environmental Council. We came together with great enthusiasm to create an opportunity for conservation and environmental organizations to share expertise, exchange ideas, build capacity and work on issues of common interests. The focus then, as it is now, was on public education and coalition building to give Iowans a voice to ensure a safe, healthy environment for all Iowans.”
Mark Ackelson

Join us to thank Mark, Linda, Buz, Charlotte, David and David, celebrate our 20th anniversary, and toast to a shared vision for a clean water future at Pro H2O, Thursday, June 11, from 6-9 p.m. at Brenton Skating Plaza on the bank of the Des Moines River.

Purchase your tickets today

Clean Water Rule clarifies protections for streams and wetlands

wetland
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the finalization of the Clean Water Rule, which clarifies protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. These waterways help reduce flooding, supply drinking water, filter pollution and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife in downstream waters.

The Council and many of our allies have worked together to build support and advocate for, advance and achieve a these standards for years. This fall, we submitted comments in support of the proposed standards during the public comment period, as did hundreds of Council members and advocates.

“The Clean Water Rule confirms protections for some of our country’s most important and often overlooked waters under the Clean Water Act, one of our best tools for restoring polluted waters and preventing new pollution,” said Water Program Director Susan Heathcote. “U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years had created confusion about which streams and wetlands are protected under the law. The Clean Water Rule clears up that confusion.”

The final standard better defines – not broadens – protections under the Clean Water Act. It also clarifies which waters do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, including streams that do not contribute flow to downstream waters, irrigation ditches, waste treatment lagoons, agricultural stormwater runoff and groundwater. It does not create new permitting requirements for agriculture, nor does it change existing exemptions and exclusions.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide.”

Passed by Congress in 1972, the Federal Clean Water Act was created to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.”

Council welcomes back agricultural policy intern

Agricultural Policy Intern Jorgen Rose

Agricultural Policy Intern Jorgen Rose

This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Jorgen Rose back to the Iowa Environmental Council.

On Monday, Jorgen began his second summer as an agricultural policy intern with the Council. While here, he will work on a variety of agricultural and water policy issues, including analysis and evaluation of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the associated Water Quality Initiative pilot projects.

“Coming from a family of farmers and outdoorsmen, the land and its resources have always been important to me,” Jorgen said. “Water is the most important resource we possess, and agriculture and its associated industries are vital to Iowa’s economy and culture. To work at the crossroads of the two is a rare opportunity to truly make Iowa a better place.”

An Iowa native and a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Jorgen is currently a graduate student at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where he is pursuing degrees in environmental science and natural resource policy and management.

Jorgen’s passion for protecting Iowa’s land and water, as well as his skill set and understanding of the issues derived from his academic and professional experiences, make him the perfect fit for this position.

“We are excited to welcome back Jorgen as part of our team,” said Agricultural Policy Specialist Jennifer Terry, who will oversee Jorgen’s internship. “His educational background has prepared him well to work on non-point source nutrient issues in Iowa. We look forward to his analysis, assessment and recommendations on policy affecting the implementation of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

“My work with the Council last summer exposed me to so many passionate individuals and organizations working to protect Iowa’s natural resources. I learned so much, and I expect to learn even more this summer, especially now that I am more familiar with the issues. Ultimately, the experience that the Council offers cannot be replicated in any classroom,” said Jorgen.

Percentage of assessed Iowa waters found to be impaired increases

beach

Recently, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a draft of its 2014 list of Iowa’s impaired waterbodies as an informational item on the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) May meeting agenda. Since the last time the report was filed in 2012, the total number of impaired lakes, rivers and streams has grown from 630 to 725, a 15% increase over two years.

DNR officials cite an increase in the number of waterbodies being assessed as the source of the uptick. However, the percentage of assessed lakes, rivers and streams found to be impaired has also increased from 51% to 55%. For every two waterbodies assessed, one is impaired, meaning it does not meet the water quality standards for one or more of its designated uses. That is not good news for Iowa’s water quality, environment, economy or quality of life. Stagnant improvement of our impaired waters underscores the need to urgent action to reverse this trend.

We support the DNR’s process of measuring impairments in Iowa’s lakes, rivers and streams. This process is appropriate and important. We also support and continue to call for increased monitoring and assessment. We recognize that increased monitoring will likely result in an increase in the number of waterbodies with documented impairments, which is why it is critical to evaluate the percentage of assessed waterbodies found to be impaired to get an accurate picture of water quality trends. Increased monitoring and reporting, especially in the most threatened waters of the state, will result in a better understanding of the status of our waters.

The Environmental Protection Commission will hold its monthly business meeting next Tuesday, May 19. Discussion of the draft of 2014 list of impaired waters is on the agenda. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting:

EPC May Business Meeting
Tuesday, May 19, 10 a.m.
Davenport East Branch Library
6000 Eastern Avenue, Davenport, IA
View the meeting details and agenda

Requests to speak during the business meeting Public Participation must be submitted to Jerah Sheets at Jerah.Sheets@dnr.iowa.gov, 502 East 9th Des Moines, IA 50319, 515-313-8909, or in-person by the start of the business meeting. Please indicate who you will be representing (yourself, an association, etc.), the agenda item of interest, and your stance of For, Opposed, or Neutral. There will also be a 45-day public comment period after the meeting, after which DNR will prepare a responsiveness summary of comments received. Changes in the list will be made based on public comments.

The DNR acknowledges that “once added to a state list, the impairment is likely to remain on the list.” This is in part due to the need for a more detailed study of the impaired waters, including the watershed area that may be contributing to the impairment, as well as a lack of long-term, sustainable funding to take action to address the water quality issues.

“Unless a state has authority and the means to reduce levels of nonpoint source pollution, the NPS-related impairments will likely continue to reside on the state’s list of impaired waters,” states the report.

To successfully achieve measurably cleaner water, we will continue our ongoing and multi-year efforts to engage urban and rural stakeholders in conversations about solutions that provide Iowans with quantifiable, verifiable results that can identify where meaningful progress is being made to improve our water quality. We will continue to be outspoken in advocating for sustained funding to support those efforts. Without these improvements, Iowa is unlikely to achieve measurably cleaner water anytime soon.