How to write an Iowa caucus party platform resolution

Many Iowans leave their precinct caucuses after the presidential selection process, but the caucuses also provide an opportunity for politically-engaged people to influence their party’s platform. If you bring a resolution to your precinct caucus, you have a good chance of getting it approved and sent to the county platform committee, which decides what will come to a vote at the county convention.

Little-known fact for those who want to exercise this option: platform resolutions should be written in a different format from other political resolutions you may have read. Follow me after the jump for details and examples of resolutions you can bring to your caucus on Monday night.

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2016 RAGBRAI route announced: A short ride across southern Iowa

After two straight years of taking bicyclists across northern parts of the state, the Des Moines Register announced this evening that the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) will cross southern Iowa from July 24 to 30. The route starting in Glenwood and ending in Muscatine will take riders “419.9 miles (third-shortest in the event’s 44-year history), with a total climb of 18,488 feet (making it the 24th flattest).”

Full details on the 2016 route are on the official RAGBRAI website. After the jump I’ve listed the overnight stops, along with daily mileage totals and feet of climb and some political trivia about places riders will visit this summer.

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Is the Promise of Natural Gas Waning?

(The former leader of the Iowa Energy Office and founder of the non-profit Unfolding Energy challenges some assumptions about natural gas as a "bridge" between coal-fired power plants and renewable energy production. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The final Clean Power Plan released on August underplays the role of natural gas in reducing carbon emissions in comparison to the draft Clean Power Plan rules released in 2014. According to the America’s Natural Gas Alliance President Martin Durbin, initial indications from the final Clean Power Plan rues indicate that the White House discounted gas’s ability to reduce GHG emissions quickly and reliably while contributing to growth and helping consumers.

For the last few years, natural gas was considered to be a bridge between carbon-intensive fuels such as coal and the clean energy of the future. Given that natural gas releases 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to coal, it was certainly a great substitute. However, the recent growth in the renewable energy industry is quickly proving that we may not need this bridge fuel after all.  Here is why.  

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Five ways cleaning up coal-fired power plants will save Iowans' lives

The best news in Iowa this week came out of a federal courtroom in Cedar Rapids. As Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press, “Iowa’s second-largest power company agreed Wednesday to drastically cut pollution at several coal-fired power plants under a Clean Air Act settlement that’s expected to make the air safer and easier to breathe around the state.” You can read the full consent decree here and the complaint filed against the Alliant Energy subsidiary Interstate Power and Light here.

Huge credit for the victory goes to the Sierra Club Iowa chapter. Foley reports that this federal government enforcement action “started in 2011 when the Sierra Club filed a notice accusing the company [Interstate Power and Light] of violating the Clean Air Act.” The Sierra Club advocates for a range of policies to reduce air pollution and Iowa’s reliance on coal to generate electricity.

I enclose below highlights from Foley’s article and five reasons the changes at the affected power plants will save Iowans’ lives.

The agreement U.S. officials reached with Interstate Power and Light is also an encouraging sign that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision against the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule on mercury emissions is at most a temporary setback for clean air. In some communities, the court’s ruling won’t even slow down efforts to convert coal-fired plants to other fuel sources.

If only Governor Terry Branstad, who has often spoken of his desire to make Iowa the “healthiest state,” could recognize the benefits of burning less coal. Although Branstad was happy to bask in the reflected glory of new pollution controls at one of the affected Interstate Power and Light power plants, he welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the mercury rule, which the governor’s office characterized as a “misguided” EPA regulation.  

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EPA proposes stronger smog standards for public health

Catching up on news from last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released new standards for ground-level ozone that will reduce the incidence and severity of various respiratory diseases. Click here for details on the standards.

Ground level or “bad” ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOC. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground level ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

Current regulations allow ozone at 75 parts per billion. The new rules would lower that to a level between 65 and 70 parts per billion. Mark Drajem reported for Bloomberg News, “The EPA’s independent science advisers this year recommended the administration set the standard at 60 to 70 parts per billion, and urged the agency to consider the lower end of that range.”

After the jump I’ve posted the EPA’s press release and excerpts from a commentary by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, along with some reaction by critics of the proposal. Predictably, some business groups say the new standards will be devastating for the economy. McCarthy pointed out that same dire warnings have accompanied every new environmental regulation for decades.

The Iowa Association for Business and Industry is concerned that the EPA proposal may be expensive for manufacturers. Data collected between 2011 and 2013 at various monitoring sites around Iowa indicate that ground-level ozone is already below 70 parts per billion at all tested locations. Some of the Iowa sites recorded levels below 65 parts per billion; others are slightly above that level. The EPA does not anticipate that any counties in Iowa will violate the new ozone standard by 2025. Counties with the worst smog problems, including many in California, will be given more time to comply with the new ozone standards.

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