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Weekend open thread: Water problems edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 04, 2015 at 11:37:33 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I spent most of Friday at the Iowa Environmental Council's annual meeting, where as usual, I learned a lot from the conference speakers. (I've long been an active volunteer for the non-profit.) Chad Pregracke gave an inspiring and entertaining keynote address this year. Raised on the banks of the Mississippi River, Pregracke spent hours a day under its surface diving for mussels shells as a summer job. In his early 20s, he became obsessively committed to getting trash out of the river and cold-called businesses in the Quad Cities until he had enough funding for his first cleanup project. Favorable coverage from the Associated Press helped Pregracke raise more awareness and money. He later created the non-profit Living Lands and Waters, which has pulled a mind-blowing amount of trash out of waterways in twenty states. I am looking forward to reading Pregracke's memoir From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers.

Several speakers at the Iowa Environmental Council conference discussed the Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa's Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista Counties. The unprecedented lawsuit has angered many Iowa politicians, including Governor Terry Branstad, who has said the Water Works "ought to just tone it down and start cooperating and working with others [...]." (Priceless response from Todd Dorman: "Tone it down? Tell it to the bloomin' algae.")

The most informative single piece I've seen about this litigation is Sixteen Things to Know About the Des Moines Water Works Proposed Lawsuit, a speech Drake University Law Professor Neil Hamilton gave at the 2015 Iowa Water Conference in Ames this March. The director of Drake's Agricultural Law Center also wrote an excellent guest column for the Des Moines Register in May debunking the "strenuous effort" to convince Iowans that "the lawsuit is unfair and unhelpful."

Last weekend, the Associated Press ran a series of well-researched articles on water infrastructure problems across the U.S. As a country, we were foolish not to invest more in infrastructure during and since the "Great Recession," when interest rates have been at historically low levels. The AP reports underscore the mounting hidden and not-hidden costs of hundreds of municipalities deferring maintenance on water mains and equipment at treatment plants. After the jump I've posted excerpts from several of the stories, but if you want to be educated and appalled, click through to read them in their entirety: Ryan Foley, "Drinking water systems imperiled by failing infrastructure" and "Millions remain unspent in federal water-system loan program"; Justin Pritchard, "Availability of clean water can't be taken for granted anymore"; and John Seewer, "Cities bear rising cost of keeping water safe to drink."

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No comment from most Iowans in Congress as EPA expands farm worker pesticide protections

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 15:30:16 PM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of "stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and their families working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. These revisions to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries." Under the old rules, exposure to chemicals incurred "an estimated $10 million to $15 million in annual health costs" among farm workers The new rules do not cover "persons working with livestock" and exempt "farm owners and their immediate family with an expanded definition of family." I've enclosed after the jump a fact sheet summarizing key changes, a short summary of the public health case for the rule, and a graphic that shows the old and new rules side by side. Click here for the EPA's press release on the changes and here for a more detailed five-page chart.

Fruit and vegetable farming isn't a huge industry in Iowa like it is in states with longer growing seasons, such as California or Florida. Still, Iowa farms have been producing more of what some call "specialty crops" as more consumers here seek out local food. Moreover, expanding fruit and vegetable production in Iowa has potential to create jobs and increase local incomes, according to this 2010 paper by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. So I sought comment from the Iowans in Congress on the new regulations. At this writing, I have not heard back from the offices of House Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), David Young (IA-03), or Steve King (IA-04). I also haven't received a comment from Senator Chuck Grassley. Senator Joni Ernst's communications director sent the following:

Senator Ernst believes that once again the Obama Administration is overstepping its bounds, expanding onerous regulations that fail to consider the full impact on stakeholders, like Iowa's agriculture industry. The EPA is continuing to act as an unchecked federal agency, adding burdensome new rules and costs. In addition, the EPA completely ignores the safety progress that has already been made under existing guidelines for our youth.

Iowa politicians tend to be hostile to any new regulation affecting farms or other agricultural facilities. Most of Iowa's federal representatives opposed the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts in 2011 to update protections for children on working farms. Every Iowan in Congress except for Senator Tom Harkin welcomed the department's decision to withdraw that rule in April 2012.

A spokesperson for Governor Terry Branstad said they don't have a reaction to the new farm worker safety rule yet but will evaluate it "in its entirety." I can't think of a time Branstad supported any regulation of farming practices, so I assume he will not be favorably disposed toward the new EPA rule. But if he's serious about making Iowa the "healthiest state," reducing unnecessary exposure to pesticides would be a worthy goal to embrace.

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What's the end game for conservation funding in Iowa?

by: mhauge

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 21:57:33 PM CDT

(Thanks to Matt Hauge for flagging this little-noticed but significant shift by the Iowa Corn Growers.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(Author note: Thanks to DesMoines Dem for permitting this cross-post originally published on Medium.) 

At its annual policy conference in August, the Iowa Corn Growers Association joined the Iowa Soybean Association in supporting Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL), a sales tax increase that would provide in excess of $150 million annually to environmental protection and natural resources in Iowa.

Official support for IWLL from both the corn and soybean organizations is significant because a bill in this year’s legislative session to enact the tax increase, SSB1272 (succeeded by SF504), drew opposition from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s agribusiness lobbying powerhouse.

While it received very little attention in the media, this action by the Corn Growers — just maybe — is a sign that something is changing in a good way for clean water in Iowa.

Even if not, at least the Corn Growers’ decision presents a good opportunity to look at what’s going on as Iowa struggles for better conservation performance of its globally significant soil and water resources.

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Prominent Iowa Republican moderate switches parties

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 13:21:58 PM CDT

Todd Dorman has big news in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette: Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson changed his party registration to Democratic last week.

As a Democrat, I welcome any fair-minded person to our party. But as the daughter of a Rockefeller Republican, I'm saddened by yet another sign GOP moderates are a vanishing breed.  

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Iowa State University seeks water quality assessment coordinator

by: frankly

Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 21:29:38 PM CDT

(Guest author highlights inconvenient truths about an important but challenging job. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa State University has announced a new position in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focused on assessing the effectiveness of Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy - an all-voluntary state plan to reduce chronic runoff pollution that is the state's most vexing water quality challenge.

Think you might be up to the challenge?  There's more after the jump.

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Is the Promise of Natural Gas Waning?

by: parikasotia

Tue Sep 15, 2015 at 11:49:01 AM CDT

(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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Pella Electric Cooperative drops discriminatory charge for solar users

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 28, 2015 at 17:22:13 PM CDT

The Pella Electric Cooperative has told the Iowa Utilities Board it will no longer seek to charge some customers using solar panels a much higher "facilities fee," Karen Uhlenhuth reported today for Midwest Energy News. The rural electric cooperative had informed members in June that customers installing new solar panels after August 15 would be charged a monthly fee of $85, which is $57.50 higher than what most of the Pella Electric customers pay. Those who had already installed solar systems would be exempt from the higher fee for five years, but would have to start paying it in 2020.

The cooperative's action provoked an outcry from renewable energy advocates as well as from the handful of Pella Electric customers who would have been immediately affected. Uhlenhuth noted that the non-profit Environmental Law & Policy Center intervened with the Iowa Utilities Board, saying "a fee levied only on customers with distributed generation facilities ran counter to two provisions in Iowa law." The Office of Consumer Advocate (part of the Iowa Attorney General's office) asked the cooperative to provide data supporting a much higher monthly fee for solar users. The cooperative had refused to release its "cost of service" study last month.

To all appearances, the coop backed down once leaders realized they were on shaky legal ground, much like Alliant Energy reversed its position on net metering for some solar projects, shortly after critics had intervened with the utilities board. Uhlenhuth quoted a statement released by the Pella cooperative, which sounds like an unconvincing attempt to save face. The coop's chief executive officer John Smith claimed it is "incorrect" to depict the higher facilities fee as "discriminatory." He is sticking to his story that charging solar users more was merely an effort to be "fair" to other customers. While not admitting that the cooperative was wrong, the statement said it is withdrawing the proposal "until such time that we can better educate our members and the community as to the fair and equitable recovery of fixed costs."

A press release from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which I enclose in full below, notes that the Pella cooperative already benefits from solar panels installed by its customers, because it "buys excess solar energy at a rock bottom price" of 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour and "sells it at a premium" price of 10.1 cents per kWh. (I'm an active supporter of the ELPC, but I have no role in drafting their public statements or legal strategy.)

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Longer summer break for Iowa kids, but with less lake swimming

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 11:51:41 AM CDT

Thousands of Iowa children went back to school today, having enjoyed an extra week or two of vacation thanks to a new state law preventing K-12 school districts from beginning the academic year before August 23. In response to lobbying from the tourism industry, most state lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad sought to block local school administrators from starting in early or mid-August. However, as economist Dave Swenson explained here, "there is no evidence that early start dates interfere in any meaningful sense with the Iowa State Fair or with any other tourism activity in Iowa."

If only the governor and most of our state legislators were as tuned in to how dirty water hurts Iowa tourism.  

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 16, 2015 at 15:37:38 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors' latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives "were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn't obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul." An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client "threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign." But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as "a knee-jerk, emotional reaction." Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

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Background on Kim Weaver, Democratic challenger to Steve King in IA-04

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 15, 2015 at 14:59:32 PM CDT

While the four presidential hopefuls attracted the most attention at last night's "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake, some big Iowa political news preceded their pitches. Kim Weaver delivered her first major speech as a Congressional candidate in the fourth district. Given the smooth delivery, I would never have guessed she hasn't run for office before.

After telling the audience a little about her background, Weaver talked about some of her key issues: protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; supporting the middle class; raising the minimum wage; fighting to change a "predatory" student loan system; supporting women's access to health care; immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship; clean water and environmental protections. The packed house frequently applauded, especially loudly when Weaver said, "These are some of the things I stand for. What I stand against is Steve King." Iowa Democrats love to hate King. Weaver argued the seven-term incumbent "doesn't represent Iowa values," citing his offensive comments about immigrants and votes against Katrina aid and even a Farm Bill (because he thought it contained too much hunger assistance).

Weaver's campaign is online at WeaverforCongress.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her website contains brief statements on most of the issues her stump speech covered. After the jump I've posted her announcement video and excerpts from her official bio.

Taking on King is a daunting task for any Democrat. The 39 counties in IA-04 contain 119,020 active registered Democrats, 176,515 Republicans, and 174,355 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

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What the Clean Power Plan will mean for Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 04, 2015 at 14:00:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of its Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, the "first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants." The final rule differs from the EPA's original proposal last June in several respects. An EPA fact sheet spells out the key changes to the Iowa targets:

The goals are much closer together than at proposal. Compared to proposal, the highest (least stringent) goals got tighter, and the lowest (most stringent) goals got looser.

o Iowa's 2030 goal is 1,283 pounds per megawatt-hour. That's on the high end of this range, meaning Iowa has one of the least stringent state goals, compared to other state goals in the final Clean Power Plan.
o Iowa's step 1 interim goal of 1,638 pounds per megawatt-hour reflects changes EPA made to provide a smoother glide path and less of a "cliff" at the beginning of the program.

You can read the final Clean Power Plan and related documents here. The EPA has posted a good summary of current climate change research here. After the jump I've enclosed excerpts from a White House list of benefits from the plan, the EPA's two-page fact sheet about Iowa, and a graphic showing how much power plants contribute to U.S. carbon emissions relative to other major sources.

Renewable energy resources should make it easy for Iowa to meet the carbon emissions targets. I've also enclosed below excerpts from Donnelle Eller's report for the Des Moines Register and Alisa Meggett's commentary for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The facts about wind and solar power's potential belie scary rhetoric from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various groups funded by fossil fuels interests about how the Clean Power Plan will affect businesses and consumers.

Reducing carbon emissions will incur massive collateral health benefits. The Physicians for Social Responsibility report Coal's Assault on Human Health is still the best one-stop shop on why coal combustion causes so many premature deaths and chronic health problems. On the editorial page of today's Des Moines Register, Dr. Yogesh Shah, associate dean of global health at Des Moines University, outlined the "human health effects of climate change," which "are real and already being felt in Iowa." Scroll to the end of this post to read excerpts, or better yet, click through to read his whole piece.  

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Calling Iowa's young leaders on clean energy

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 23:15:00 PM CDT

Midwest Energy News, a non-profit news website supported by non-profits focused on energy policy, is launching an award to recognize "emerging leaders throughout the region and their work to accelerate America's transition to a clean energy economy." The site will accept nominations for the "40 Under 40" designation here "until either 250 nominations are received or 10:00 p.m. CT on Monday, August 10." Eligible candidates include "midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors -industry, government, regulatory, business, academic, and advocacy."

I learned about the 40 Under 40 competition from State Representative Chuck Isenhart, who will serve on the selection advisory committee for Midwest Energy News. Isenhart is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and has been a strong voice in the Iowa legislature on a range of environmental issues.

Through volunteering for various non-profits, I have become acquainted with several Iowans who deserve serious consideration for the new award, and I plan to encourage their colleagues to nominate them. The candidate who immediately came to my mind, though, is someone I've never met. Paritosh Kasotia is the founder and CEO of Unfolding Energy, a non-profit "founded on a premise that clean energy choices can safeguard the climate as well as create economic growth." She is best known as the highly capable former leader of the Iowa Energy Office; I enclose below more background on that part of her career. Late last year, leaders of the Iowa Economic Development Authority fired Kasotia for reasons never explained to anyone's satisfaction. Some suspected the dismissal was related to a $1 million solar power grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which Kasotia helped land but Iowa eventually relinquished after Branstad administration officials "amended an original proposal and insisted the grant not be used to evaluate solar energy policies - a change that utility lobbyists sought," Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press last July.

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Pella Electric Cooperative trying to discourage customers from installing solar or wind

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 27, 2015 at 18:01:32 PM CDT

Solar power made big news in Iowa today, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Des Moines about ambitious goals for installing solar panels. In a forthcoming post, Bleeding Heartland will compare the Democratic presidential candidates' proposals to combat climate change by increasing renewable energy production and decreasing carbon emissions.

Iowa has tremendous potential to generate electricity from the sun. Recognizing that fact, large bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate "triple[d] the size of Iowa's successful solar tax incentive program" in 2014 and during this year's session increased available solar energy tax incentive funds by another $500,000 to $5 million per year.

But some segments of the utilities sector have been slow to embrace solar power. One of Iowa's major investor-owned utilities persuaded the Iowa Utilities Board to block certain financing arrangements that made it easier for customers to install solar panels. An appeal of that administrative decision went to the Iowa Supreme Court, which overturned the Iowa Utilities Board last year.

Rural electric cooperatives, which supply electricity to roughly 650,000 Iowans, have approached renewable energy and solar power in vastly different ways. Farmers Electric Cooperative in the Kalona area installed the largest solar farm in Iowa last year.  

But as first reported by Karen Uhlenhuth at Midwest Energy News last week, the Pella Electric Cooperative is seeking to penalize customers who choose to install new solar or other renewable technology. Lee Rood picked up the story on the front page of today's Des Moines Register. The cooperative's new monthly charge for a handful of consumers is brazen and probably illegal.  

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Where are they now? Non-existent heated sidewalks edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 15, 2015 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland's "Where are they now?" posts usually focus on new jobs for former elected officials, candidates for high office, or other prominent individuals in Iowa politics.

Todd Dorman's latest commentary for the Cedar Rapids Gazette prompted me to follow up on a smear from the 2010 state legislative elections.

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Confederate flag controversy returns to U.S. House: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 09, 2015 at 22:28:39 PM CDT

The continuing controversy over displaying Confederate flags has divided the Republican caucus in the U.S. House, forcing leaders to cancel a vote planned for today on a bill to fund the Interior Department for the 2016 fiscal year.

For the second time in less than a month, Iowa's four U.S. representatives split along party lines over how to handle Democratic efforts to remove all Confederate flag images from the Capitol.

Follow me after the jump for background and details.

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IA-Sen: Rob Hogg exploring challenge to Chuck Grassley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 08, 2015 at 12:40:00 PM CDT

Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg announced today,

I have formed an exploratory committee to consider becoming a candidate for the United States Senate in 2016.  Like many Iowans, I believe we need Congress to work better for all of our citizens and our country's future.  If we had a Congress that worked better, we could:

> Build a vibrant, full-employment economy that works for all Americans.
> Improve public health and public safety through prevention, prevention, and more prevention.
> Strengthen Social Security and Medicare and fulfill our commitments to seniors, veterans, and people living with disabilities.
> Confront the challenge of our century - climate change - through solutions that work for our economy, our health, and our environment.

Hogg didn't set a timetable for deciding on a U.S. Senate bid but said he will travel around Iowa in the coming weeks. His full press release and official bio are after the jump. His exploratory committee is on the web here. He's on Twitter @SenatorRobHogg and on Facebook here.

Hogg was just re-elected to his third four-year term in the Iowa Senate last November, so he would not have to give up his legislative seat in order to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Most recently, he has chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee; before that, he chaired the Judiciary Committee. He is among the most outspoken Iowa lawmakers on climate change and other environmental issues.

Two Democrats have already announced plans to run against Grassley: former State Representative Bob Krause and former State Senator Tom Fiegen. They recently discussed their key issues with Mike Glover of the Iowa Daily Democrat. Krause and Fiegen also competed in the 2010 Democratic primary, which Roxanne Conlin won with about 77 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Hogg, via Iowa Starting Line.

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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Defense, trade, Medicare, chemicals, and power plants

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 29, 2015 at 23:51:38 PM CDT

While Congress is on recess until after July 4, it's time to catch up on an unusually busy few weeks in June for U.S. House members. Bleeding Heartland previously covered how Iowa's representatives voted on the failed and successful attempts to pass trade promotion authority, repeal of country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat, a bill to eliminate a tax on medical devices, and the Intelligence Authorization Act.

Follow me after the jump to find out how Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted on the latest defense budget bill, more trade-related policies, and legislation dealing with chemical safety, Medicare cost controls, and regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Iowa's representatives also voted last week on a matter relating to the growing national controversy over Confederate symbols.

Something you don't see often when looking through Congressional roll calls: three of Iowa's four House members crossed party lines more than once during the floor debate on the defense budget.

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Environmental Protection Commission fails to protect the environment

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 17, 2015 at 09:52:43 AM CDT

The Environmental Protection Commission voted yesterday to eviscerate a rule adopted in 2012 to reduce stormwater runoff from new construction sites. The rule previously required developers to put at least four inches of topsoil back on sites. Thanks to a lobbying campaign from home-builders, the new wording requires topsoil replacement "unless infeasible," without defining that term. So any developer who doesn't feel like spending money to put topsoil back can claim it would have been "infeasible" to do so. If the homeowner can't grow anything on the impacted clay, and runoff contributes to more flash flooding in the area or downstream, too bad.

Dar Danielson reported for Radio Iowa that only two of the nine Environmental Protection Commission members voted against the rule change: Bob Sinclair and Nancy Couser. Sinclair proposed different wording, which sounded like a reasonable compromise, but other commission members did not want to adopt new wording, which would restart the lengthy public input process. The full list of EPC members is available on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website.

One of the newest commissioners, who joined the majority yesterday in putting a few developers' interests ahead of the environment, is former State Representative Joe Riding. Branstad named the Democrat to the EPC earlier this year. Riding's action is disappointing but hardly surprising. He didn't serve on committees that focused on environmental issues during his one term in the Iowa House. A former city council member in the rapidly-growing Des Moines suburb of Altoona, Riding has probably worked with lots of home-builders.

As Todd Dorman wrote earlier this year, the EPC "abandoned all sense of balance and fairness on this issue." Expect more flooding in Iowa, more topsoil loss, and more pollution from yard chemicals making its way to our waterways.

UPDATE: Matthew Patane reported for the Des Moines Register,

Prior to voting, Couser said the rule change would mean homeowners will get "thrown under the bus" if builders don't have to evenly distribute topsoil.

"Although it may not be the intent of the rule to protect the homeowner, the homeowner definitely, 7-to-1, is telling us that's what they want from us. They want their soil," she said.

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No single issue is worth risking the Iowa Senate majority

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 16, 2015 at 08:22:02 AM CDT

Shortly before the end of this year's legislative session, former State Representative Ed Fallon announced "political action" to stop the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. He warned that if the Iowa House and Senate did not approve a bill to block the use of eminent domain for the project, he would organize and fundraise "to help defeat one or two Democratic Senators and one or two Republican Representatives" who oppose the bill.

On June 5, the Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year without passing an eminent domain bill in either chamber. Last week Fallon confirmed that he is sticking to his goal of defeating one or two majority party members in both the House and Senate, adding that he had already raised $4,500 toward the cause.

All I can say is, count me out of that political crusade.

Come to think of it, I have a few more things to say on the subject.

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House seeks to block EPA water rule: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 12, 2015 at 22:59:22 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today by 261 votes to 155 to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the "waters of the United States" rule. The EPA released the final version of that rule last month. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other agribusiness groups have long bashed the proposed regulation as a threat to farmers. Last summer, Kyle Rabin wrote a clear and concise "debunking" of the Farm Bureau's deceptive hyperbole.

Today's votes to pass the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act" came from 24 Democrats and all the Republicans present, including Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Meanwhile, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted with most of the House Democrats against the bill--a pleasant surprise, since he voted for last year's version of the same legislation.

I've been accused of being hostile to Loebsack, in part because Bleeding Heartland has called attention to a few bad votes for Republican bills seeking to rein in the EPA. Some of those bills were merely silly, while others posed a real threat to public health if enacted. I appreciate that since last November's election, Loebsack has voted against several House GOP efforts to target the EPA. More like that, please.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I haven't seen any official statement from the Iowans in Congress about today's vote, but I'll update this post as needed.

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