Two Iowans among "40 Under 40" Midwestern clean energy leaders

The non-profit news site Midwest Energy News has honored two Iowans on its second annual 40 Under 40 list of "emerging leaders" working on "America’s transition to a clean energy economy." From last week’s announcement:

Erin Buchanan works as an Energy Services Coordinator for Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In 2011, Buchanan was named a “rising star in public power” by the American Public Power Association. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with a B.S. in mathematical decision sciences. She also holds an M.S. in statistics from Iowa State University. […]

Josh Mandelbaum is a Des Moines-based staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). Before joining ELPC, Mandelbaum practiced law with Lane & Waterman LLP in Davenport, Iowa. He previously served as a senior policy advisor to Iowa Governor Thomas J. Vilsack and Lt. Governor Sally J. Pederson. Before his work in the Governor’s office, Mandelbaum held a fellowship at the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Secretary’s Policy Office. Mandelbaum is a 2000 Truman Scholar, a 2001 magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, and a 2009 honors graduate from the University of Iowa College of Law.

I wasn’t familiar with Buchanan’s work before learning about this award. I was impressed to see all the resources Cedar Falls Utilites provides for customers seeking to use less energy, purchase wind-generated electricity, buy units in a community-owned solar garden, or install small-scale wind or solar systems.

I’ve known Mandelbaum for many years and am an active supporter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The non-profit’s legal team has contributed to major public policy victories in the renewable energy field, from a solar power case that went to the Iowa Supreme Court to mostly below-the-radar battles with intransigent rural electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities Alliant and MidAmerican. Mandelbaum and his colleagues have also been involved in important water policy fights, such as a 2014 Iowa Supreme Court case that kept state "anti-degradation" rules alive. Earlier this year, an Iowa District Court ruled in favor of ELPC’s lawsuit on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council, seeking to force the state Department of Natural Resources to enforce those rules, "an important part of the [federal] Clean Water Act."

Iowans Paritosh Kasotia and Dwight Stewart were part of the first Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40 cohort last year.

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IA-Gov: Sales tax hike for conservation may become fault line in 2018

Leaders of a campaign to provide a "permanent and constitutionally protected funding source dedicated to clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitats" in Iowa touted support in the business and agriculture communities this week. You can watch Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy’s September 12 press conference here or listen to the audio at Radio Iowa. Under a state constitutional amendment Iowa voters adopted in 2010, revenues generated by the next 3/8th of a cent sales tax increase (estimated at more than $180 million per year) would flow into a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Scroll to the end of this post for a current list of IWLL coalition members and details on the formula for allocating trust fund money.

Without knowing which parties will control the Iowa House and Senate next year, it’s hard to gauge prospects for passing a sales tax increase. Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy commented on Monday, "The best time to move on a piece of legislation is just following an election. That’s when you get your best bipartisan compromises, and I think ultimately, this is something we can find a bipartisan compromise on."

Who might lead statehouse Republicans toward such a compromise is unclear. The GOP lawmaker most supportive of IWLL has been State Senator David Johnson. But he left the party this summer to protest presidential nominee Donald Trump and told Bleeding Heartland in a recent interview that he plans to remain an independent during the 2017 legislative session.

At least one Republican running for governor in 2018 will support the sales tax increase: Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett. That stance will put him in conflict with either Governor Terry Branstad or his chosen successor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. In addition, support for funding IWLL among major farm lobby groups could create problems for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, also a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2018.

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Zika funding a classic case of systemic Congressional failure

U.S. House and Senate members returned to work Tuesday, no better equipped to handle basic tasks of governance than they were before their unusually long summer recess.

You might think funding to combat a public health emergency would be easy to pass even in a hyper-partisan, election-year atmosphere. But you would be wrong, because legislation to pay for a Zika virus response remains tied up over "poison pills."

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Bakken pipeline received final federal permit; land use lawsuit pending

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted the Texas-based Dakota Access company a federal permit to build the Bakken pipeline across Iowa.

Although opponents plan various forms of direct action, the best remaining chance for stopping the pipeline is a lawsuit challenging the Iowa Utilities Board’s authority to use eminent domain for a project with no legitimate public purpose.

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A plea to Iowa supporters of Bernie Sanders

Although I caucused for Hillary Clinton this year, in most presidential elections I have ended up where Bernie Sanders supporters are now: disappointed and convinced that the candidate I preferred would have been a better president as well as better positioned to beat the Republican nominee.

In a speech to his supporters last Thursday, Sanders did not explicitly concede the Democratic nomination. He vowed to do his part to "make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly" while leading "our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become."

Whether you accept the "inevitable" or still believe Sanders can become the Democratic nominee for president, whether you are willing to "hold your nose" and vote for Hillary or are firmly #BernieOrBust, I have one request for the Iowans who backed Sanders throughout this past year.

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Iowa Conservation Voters PAC

Guest posts on behalf of progressive advocacy groups are welcome here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The following post is submitted by Mark Langgin, Mike Delaney and Rob Davis, board members of Iowa Conservation Voters. Langgin is a partner with GPS Impact and has worked with a number of local and national conservation organizations. Delaney is founder of the Raccoon River Watershed Association and a leading environmental activist. Davis is a former broadcast journalist, former business owner, and in retirement worked as a clerk in the Iowa House of Representatives.

If you’re interested in clean drink water, protection of Iowa’s water/land/wildlife, access and permanent protection of public lands, and fighting global climate change, listen up.

The 2016 legislative session was a major disappointment – with little to no progress on significant water quality legislation, continued underfunding of REAP and a wide array of other environmental failures. The lone exception was legislation to help protect turtles from overharvesting for profit.

If you are as disappointed as we are, then you know Iowa needs legislators who are committed to protecting Iowa’s water, land and wildlife from pollution and climate change.

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