Good news for Iowa water quality (for once)

State legislators have allowed clean water “anti-degradation” rules to stand, a step toward filling a significant hole in Iowa’s water quality regulations. A last-ditch effort by Republicans failed to win enough votes on the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) to set aside rules adopted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

I’ve joked that the ARRC’s unofficial motto is “Where good rules go to die,” because on several occasions the committee has rejected rules oriented toward environmental protection. Today Republican Senator Merlin Bartz tried to keep that tradition going with a motion to object to the new water quality rules. However, only Bartz’s three fellow Republicans on the committee (Senator James Seymour and State Representatives Dave Heaton and Linda Upmeyer) voted for rejecting the DNR’s rules. The six Democrats on the ARRC (Senators Wally Horn, Jack Kibbie and Tom Courtney, and State Representatives Marcella Frevert, Tyler Olson and Nathan Reichert) all voted against Bartz’s resolution.

Governor Chet Culver’s chief legal counsel, Jim Larew, spoke in favor of the rules at today’s ARRC hearing, saying they would help Iowa reverse the trend of declining water quality. Unfortunately, we’ve got a long way to go on this front. Further regulation of pollution is warranted, but the political will to accomplish that is currently absent in the state legislature.

Several non-profit organizations deserve special recognition today. Without their efforts, the DNR might not have moved forward to adopt the anti-degradation rules, as required by the Clean Water Act. The Iowa Environmental Council issued a release today with more background and details about the anti-degradation rules. Excerpt:

With the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972 states were required to enact Antidegradation rules to prevent the further pollution of lakes, rivers and streams in the nation by 1985.  Iowa adopted rules but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed Iowa that its rules violated federal law as early as 1997.  

Repeated delays in rewriting the rules led a coalition of environmental organizations – Iowa Environmental Council, Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law & Policy Center – to file a Petition for Rulemaking with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2007 requesting that the State act immediately to adopt antidegradation implementation rules.  This action initiated a rule-making process that included several opportunities for public comment and a hearing before the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, which approved the revised rules in December of last year. Monday’s meeting of the legislative Administrative Rules and Review Committee marked the final step in the decades-long process.

The full text of the press release is after the jump.

Thanks again to the Iowa Environmental Council, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Sierra Club Iowa chapter, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

UPDATE: I’ve added the press release from the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter after the jump.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Remember, the off-year Iowa caucuses are this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus here.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

I noticed some job listings and other helpful information in the Iowa Environmental Council’s electronic newsletter.

Value Chain Partnerships, an “Iowa-based network for food and agriculture working groups,” has a new website: www.valuechains.org.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is hiring “a Policy Advocate to work in our Des Moines office to promote clean energy, clean water and conservation projects in Iowa. […] For more information, visit http://elpc.org/category/jobs#… or email Andrew Snow at asnow@elpc.org. Application Deadline is Jan. 30, 2010.

Plains Justice is hiring “a Resource Director who will report to the CEO and work co-operatively with the Board, attorneys and other staff and volunteers to raise, manage and evaluate effective use of financial resources. Demonstrated fundraising success required. […] Contact info@plainsjustice.org for detailed job description. No phone calls please.”

There’s a position open for an “Iowa Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator,” who “will work in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to manage and coordinate the implementation of the objectives of a water quality conservation project and activities, conservation planning and application of practices, information and education and other related activities essential to the district and NRCS.” Application Deadline: January 26, 2010. For a complete job description, salary, hiring requirements, and how to apply, go to http://cleanwateralliance.net/…

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is hiring someone to support its Upper Mississippi River project. “Successful candidates will have relevant academic training in the natural, agricultural or social sciences and experience in environmental advocacy. The position is located in Ames, Iowa. A strong commitment to natural resource conservation, environmental protection, and public health is essential. To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to employment@ewg.org.  For more information and a job description visit http://www.ewg.org/jobs.”

Calling high school seniors: Keep Iowa Beautiful is offering up to four $500 scholarships. “Students across Iowa enrolling in an Iowa college or university to major in community enhancement or environmental areas of study are eligible. Students can download the application on-line at http://www.keepiowabeautiful.c… Deadline for application: must be postmarked by February 1, 2010. Please contact the KIB office at 515-323-6507 with any questions.”

Details about events coming up in the next ten days are after the jump.

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Help support "ACES" legislation. Action Alert

Right now, Congress is debating the details of comprehensive energy and climate legislation. The proposals being discussed would create standards for increased renewable energy and efficiency and put a 'cap' on greenhouse gas emissions. With this legislation heading towards a full vote in the House of Representatives, we have reached a key point in the debate – right now, Congress needs to hear your voice in support of a strong climate and energy bill. Please, take a moment to send a message to your Representative and help us pass this crucial legislation.

With your help we can move away from the disastrous environmental policy of the past 8 years and move towards combating climate change. While creating jobs of the 21st century and developing cleaner technologies that are and will continue to power our country.

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Iowa Residents, Businesses Can Save $690 Million Through Greater Energy Efficiency

(Sounds like a win-win-win-win to me. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    

CONTACT:Peter Gray 312-795-3715                                                          

Iowa Contact: Andrew Snow 515-244-3931

March 18, 2009

Study Finds Iowa Residents, Businesses Can Save $690 Million Through Greater Energy Efficiency

Environmental Law and Policy Center Joins Partnership in National Coalition Advocating for Federal Energy Efficiency Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Iowa residents and businesses could save over $690 million on their utility bills if utility companies cut demand for electricity by 15 percent and natural gas by 10 percent by 2020, according to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The new national and state-by-state analysis of energy efficiency benefits was made public as more than 60 business leaders, industry groups and environmental advocates, including The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) launched the Campaign for an Energy-Efficient America, a coalition calling on Congress to enact a national target for energy efficiency (www.energyefficiencyworks.org).

“Making homes and businesses more energy-efficient will create jobs, save Iowa residents money on their utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the bottom line for Iowa businesses,” said ELPC Policy Advocate Andrew Snow. “That’s why we’re proud to join business and environmental groups in urging Congress to enact a federal energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) that will help us achieve these crucial goals.”

The ACEEE report found that in addition to generating utility bill savings, passage of a federal EERS could create 1,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, and other fields in Iowa and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 2.9 million metric tons. The measure would also eliminate the need to build more power plants in Iowa and prevent environmental risks associated with traditional power generation.

A national EERS would set a target for gas and electric utilities to meet, but allow states flexibility on how to achieve the targets through rebates and financial incentives for energy efficiency home improvements, use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, combined heating/cooling systems and other measures.  Nineteen states have established a state EERS.

The Campaign for an Energy-Efficient America supports a national EERS that would require utilities to reduce electricity usage by 15 and natural gas usage by 10 percent by 2020. This proposal for a federal EERS is included in House and Senate versions of the Save American Energy Act (H.R. 889 and S. 548), introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA-7) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), respectively.  

ACEEE’s economic analysis reveals that by 2020, the proposed federal EERS could save American consumers $168.6 billion, create 222,000 jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 262 million metric tons – the equivalent of removing 48 million cars from the road – and eliminate the need to build 390 power plants. Laying the Foundation for Implementing a Federal Energy Efficiency Resource Standard is available at www.aceee.org/pubs/e091.htm.

###

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. www.elpc.org

Campaign for an Energy-Efficient America is a coalition of more than 60 leading businesses, industry groups and environmental organizations advocating for a national energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) to help the nation maximize energy efficiency – the fastest, cheapest, cleanest way to meet our growing energy needs while creating jobs, saving consumers money, boosting American competitiveness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For more information, visit our Web site at www.EnergyEfficiencyWorks.org.

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Iowa Must Seize Chances to Grow Green Economy

(A timely commentary, since Barack Obama has just named Van Jones (author of The Green Collar Economy) to be a special adviser on green jobs, enterprise and innovation. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

 

Iowa is well-positioned to be a leader in the rapidly growing green economy. That requires savvy policy and business-development actions to continue seizing strategic opportunities for progress.

 What's at stake: Iowa's competitiveness and the jobs of the future as the global economy transitions to cleaner technologies for global-warming solutions.

Energy, environmental, employment, economic and national-security goals are converging. President Barack Obama and Congress are moving toward realigning our nation to accelerate clean-energy development to create new jobs and achieve significant greenhouse-gas pollution reductions. Clean-energy development is a win-win-win for job creatin, economic growth and better environmental quality. Three major opportunies:

Energy efficiency

Making our homes, businesses and public buildings more energy efficient is a no-brainer. We really can't afford costly energy waste in today's economy, when household budgets and businesses' bottom lines are strained. Retrofitting buildings with more efficient lighting, heating and cooling, windows and other equipment will create new, good-paying electrical, plumbing, carpentry and construction jobs.

Energy efficiency reduces utility bills, thus helping both businesses' bottom lines and household budgets. It plugs the billion-dollar energy drain that is leaking Iowa's money to states that produce natural gas and coal. Energy efficiency is the best, fastest, cleanest and cheapest way to meet power needs and avoid global-warming pollution.

Iowa's energy-efficiency winners include Pella Windows, Musco Lighting, Cenergy, providing energy design and consulting, and skilled union trade workers performing energy-efficiency upgrades in commercial and public buildings. A new farm bill program championed by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin provides grants for energy-efficiency improvements for farms and rural small businesses. The economic-stimulus legislation provides $20 billion more nationally for energy efficiency.

Wind power

Wind is the nation's fastest-growing energy resource. Iowa has nearly 3,000 megawatts installed. Six major manufacturing plants employing more than 1,000 people are operating or planned. Iowa manufacturers specializing in steel fabrication, castings and gears fit well into the wind-industry supply chain.

Huge wind-turbine blades and towers are increasingly being made near the installation sites in the Midwest to ease transportation and logistics. States with supportive policies are gaining business. Iowa is well-positioned to benefit from the national renewable-energy standard being considered by Congress.

New passenger rail

The economic-stimulus legislation includes $9.3 billion for high-speed rail and improved Amtrak service. The Midwest high-speed rail network would connect 11 major cities within a 400-mile radius of Chicago and the mid-sized cities in between.

Gov. Chet Culver and Congressman Leonard Boswell are calling for new Des Moines-Iowa City-Chicago rail service. These new trains can improve transportation mobility, pull together the regional economy, create jobs and help the environment by reducing pollution. The Greater Des Moines Partnership, labor unions and the Environmental Law & Policy Center are working together to get new rail service going.

Solving global-warming problems is our generation's moral, business, policy, political and technological challenge. The global economy is transforming with the rapidly growing trillion-dollar clean-energy technology sector. Lots of jobs and money are at stake. Iowa should seize the strategic opportunities and use its competitive advantages to help lead the growing green economy of the future.

HOWARD A. LEARNER is the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

About the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Iowa Global Warming Campaign:
ELPC is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental, legal advocacy and eco-business
innovation organization. We are environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business deal
making with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress
and economic development can be achieved together.

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Put college rivalries to good use

I saw in the Sunday Des Moines Register that people at Wartburg and Luther colleges in northeast Iowa channeled their competitive energy into something useful:

Pranksters traditionally make 75-mile road trips between Decorah and Waverly to dress campus statues in opposition colors. Now they have been joined by eco-conscious students in a month-long competition to see which school can conserve more energy and lower campus utility bills.

Strategies have included shorter showers, turned-off lights and unplugged cell phone chargers. […]

“If we lose, we have to have a sign that says ‘Wartburg won’ ” displayed publicly for one month, Luther freshman Brian Gerike, 19, of St. Louis said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see that at Luther.” […]

Two state universities in drought-plagued North Carolina saved 11 million gallons of water in a three-month contest last year.

Luther senior and Minnesota native Megan Selvig, 21, said the trick is to inject rivalry into the mix.

She said Luther students will try to win any contest that includes that school to the south.

“Their ears perk up when they hear Wartburg,” Selvig said.

The feeling is mutual.[…]

A winner will determined when February utility bills arrive.

In a final push for victory, Luther dormitory dwellers were planning to hold “blackout parties” Saturday night.

I’ve never been into college rivalries, but think about how much water and energy could be saved if the University of Iowa and Iowa State agreed to an efficiency contest.

With deep budget cuts looming, all college and university presidents should think about ways to get the student body excited about something that will save money. Normally college students have little reason to conserve energy, because they’re not paying the utility bills.

Speaking of saving money, we noticed a big drop in our utility bills after Mr. desmoinesdem turned down the thermostats to between 59 and 62 (in previous winters we’ve kept the house at 64 to 66). It’s still comfortable as long as I wear layers and slippers.

Daily Kos user chapter1 wrote a good diary recently about a new meter that gives people rapid feedback about how much electricity they use at home. This helps people understand which small changes can make a big difference in their consumption, the same way a Prius shows continuously how the way you drive affects the car’s mileage.

This thread is for any suggestions on saving energy or putting human competitive streaks to good use.

UPDATE: The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) “seeks to hire a dedicated Energy Efficiency Policy and Technical Specialist with 3+ years of professional experience for a full-time position in our Chicago, Columbus, Des Moines or Madison offices.” Click the link for more details.

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