Tag Archives: EPA

Clean Power Plan: An Opportunity for Iowa

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President Barack Obama greets attendees, including Iowa Environmental Council Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer (pictured), in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the finalization of the Clean Power Plan, a landmark standard that sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

By establishing state-specific carbon pollution reduction goals based on each state’s energy portfolio, the Clean Power Plan will cut 32% of carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 2030 (from 2005 levels), and improve Iowa’s economy, protect our communities, safeguard our working lands and strengthen our energy independence.

The final Clean Power Plan calls for Iowa to reduce its carbon pollution rate to 1,283 lbs/MWh by 2030, a slight increase from the originally proposed 1,301 lbs/MWh. Both goals are based on reductions from 2012 carbon pollution levels. However, the baseline or starting point for those calculations has changed. Therefore, while the final Clean Power Plan calls for Iowa to cut carbon pollution from its power plants by 41%, this cannot be directly compared to the originally proposed 16% reduction.

As a national wind energy leader, Iowa is well-equipped to meet this modest goal, and could have achieved a significantly stronger goal. The final Clean Power Plan presents significant opportunities for Iowa’s wind sector to help reduce emissions in other states.

“We applaud the EPA and Administrator McCarthy’s leadership in finalizing the Clean Power Plan,” said Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer, who was among leading clean energy advocates invited to join President Obama at the White House for a media event announcing the finalization of the plan. “However, Iowa’s carbon reduction goal remains one of the lowest in the country. While achievable, this modest reduction goal doesn’t begin to realize Iowa’s full clean energy potential.”

As a national leader in wind energy generation and manufacturing, Iowa is already on track to achieve and surpass its carbon reduction. Wind energy accounts for 28.5 % of Iowa’s electrical generation – the highest of any state. Recent studies show that Iowa’s wind energy potential is over 570,000 MW and 20,000 MW of this could be developed by 2030.

“Though the Council would have liked to see a stronger goal, we look forward to working with the state’s leaders over the next year to shape a strong implementation plan that maximizes Iowa’s potential for renewable energy growth and energy efficiency savings,” said Climate and Energy Policy Specialist Cindy Lane.

By increasing the regional and national demand for clean energy, the Clean Power Plan will expand opportunities for wind as well as solar energy development, strengthening Iowa’s economy and job market.

In addition to improving Iowa’s economy, the Clean Power Plan benefits the state’s communities, cultural heritage and environment. By cutting carbon pollution and encouraging a transition to clean energy, the Clean Power Plan will make Iowa a safer, healthier and more attractive place to live and work.

Read the final Clean Power Plan

Protect Our Waterways – support the proposed Clean Water Act rules

The U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed new Clean Water Act rules that clarify - not broaden - which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, including headwater streams and wetlands adjacent to rivers.

The U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed new Clean Water Act rules that clarify – not broaden – which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, including headwater streams and wetlands adjacent to rivers.

As reported in today’s Des Moines Register, Governor Branstad’s office recently submitted a letter to the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers regarding the proposed Clean Water Act rules.

The Iowa Environmental Council disagrees with Governor Branstad’s characterization of the rules in his letter and his assertion that the rule should be withdrawn. We strongly support the rules, which clarify which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, including small headwater streams that flow into larger rivers and to wetlands adjacent to these rivers.

These small streams and wetlands help reduce flooding, supply drinking water, filter pollution and provide critical support and habitat for fish and wildlife in downstream waters.

Iowans want clean water, and these rules advance that goal. We believe that the stakeholder meetings convened by the Governor should have included representation from groups who support federal protections for our waters, including people who drink, fish, swim and boat in our waters. As we know all too well in Des Moines, many pollutants affecting the quality of our drinking water  come from small streams that flow into the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, in some cases crossing state borders. A strong Clean Water Act is needed that clarifies these headwater streams are protected.

Help protect some of our country’s most important waters. Submit your public comments to the U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in support of the proposed Clean Water Act rules today. Public Comments are being accepted through Friday, November 14.

Dead Zone Decision: Court Ruling Forces EPA Action on Mississippi River Pollution

The U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday to determine within six months whether to set new limits on the pollution that is fueling the dangerous algae growth choking the waters throughout the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf of Mexico and waters across the country.

Image shows a thick mat of green algae with the text "Let's clean this up!"The suit, filed a year and a half ago, challenged EPA’s denial of the Mississippi River Collaborative’s 2008 petition to EPA asking it to establish quantifiable standards and cleanup plans for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The suit charged that EPA had unlawfully refused to respond to the question posed to it, which is whether such federal action is necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act.  The court agreed with plaintiffs, holding that the Agency’s refusal to provide a direct answer was unlawful.

The result is a win for Iowans and others living up and down the Mississippi River who support clear, deliberate action to clean up polluted waters.  Here’s how Ann Alexander, lead attorney on the case at the National Resources Defense Council, described the result:

“In the simplest terms, the court ordered EPA to remove its head from the sand and make a decision whether to be part of the solution or part of the problem.  It’s a short and satisfying answer to a long and decidedly unsatisfying history of dithering inaction by EPA.”

At issue, Alexander explains, is EPA’s responsibility to ensure standards for cleaner water are put in place according to a reasonable timeline.  Alexander explains EPA has been clear about whether the standards are important:

“EPA has been acknowledging for more than a decade that this problem is severe, calling the nationwide damage from algae pollution a “sobering picture and a compelling reason for more urgent and effective action.”  More to the point, EPA has repeatedly gone on record saying that states have not done enough to solve the problem…”

But the federal agency has dithered on whether the standards are legally necessary–a finding that would trigger EPA’s responsibility to work quickly with states to set needed standards.

Perhaps shaken by the fierce industry opposition to its effort to set such limits in Florida, EPA simply refused to answer our question, saying only that setting federal limits if they were necessary would be a lot of time and trouble.

The Court’s decision, issued Friday does not tell the Agency how to address the problem, only to make a decision on the issue. However, EPA has repeatedly acknowledged the severity of the problem and stated that federal intervention is appropriate because states are not doing enough to solve it.

Plaintiffs in the suit included Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and NRDC.  Attorneys at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, NRDC, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center brought the case.

Gulf Dead Zone signifies lack of action by EPA, states


This week, scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium completed their annual measurement of the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, which measured 5,800 square miles, larger than the state of Connecticut.

The Dead Zone is an area of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River which is oxygen-deprived due to excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution coming primarily from agricultural sources throughout the Basin as far north as the River’s source in Minnesota, and including the state of Iowa.

Image shows a thick mat of green algae with the text "Let's clean this up!"In addition to causing the Dead Zone in the Gulf, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution harms waters throughout the Mississippi River Basin and its tributaries, threatening wildlife and recreation as well as the safety of drinking water.

“Record-high nitrate pollution levels in May through July have forced the Des Moines Water Works to use a nitrate removal system and blend water from other sources just to deliver safe drinking water to over 500,000 Iowans,” said Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, a member of the Mississippi River Collaborative.

The annual Dead Zone measurement makes the size of the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution problem in the Mississippi River Basin clear, and Iowa’s contribution of nitrogen and phosphorous that feeds this problem is among the largest of any state.

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Facing clean water risk from harmful manure spills, Iowa should not retreat from oversight duty

Two fish in an Iowa waterway died during a manure spill.

Manure spills can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. According to the Council’s analysis, illegal manure spills killed more than 1.2 million fish in Iowa in the last ten years.

News broke recently that Governor Branstad has weighed in on a continuing dialogue between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about whether Iowa is adequately protecting its rivers and lakes from harmful manure spills.

In documents released by the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Environmental Integrity Project, the governor expressed reluctance over a draft EPA plan calling for Iowa to verify that livestock operations are not putting local waters at risk.

The Iowa Environmental Council believes that given the harmful effects manure spills have had on Iowa waters, additional protections and oversight are needed.

Last year, the Council analyzed public records about manure spills over the last decade and found spills from livestock operations remain a major threat to water quality and aquatic life.  We identified 262 manure spills that reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011, 42% of which did not result in a documented monetary penalty assessed by DNR.  Fish kills were documented in approximately one-third of spill cases, and DNR estimates revealed at least 1.2 million fish died as a result of these manure spills.

Iowans expect state government to fulfill its responsibilities for providing water that is safe for drinking, recreation, and aquatic life.  Our analysis of manure spills, EPA’s own report on DNR’s practices, and concerns expressed by many Iowans in comments to state government or in the media demonstrate that today, that responsibility is not being met.

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