# Water Quality



A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet

Silvia Secchi is a professor in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa. She has a PhD in economics from Iowa State University.

What’s a farm? Who is a farmer? These are political questions.

They are important questions for Iowa, as so much of the state’s identity is wrapped around its historical role in U.S. agriculture. The questions also matter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which implements policies that strongly favor Iowa’s farm and agribusiness sectors. The higher the number of farms, the more legitimate it is to keep claiming that “Iowa feeds the world.” Funding depends on that number too.

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How Iowa Supreme Court's McDermott, Oxley have decided big cases

Disclosure: I am a plaintiff in an open records lawsuit that is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal. (The governor’s office appealed a lower court ruling against the state’s motion to dismiss our case.) That litigation has nothing to do with this post.

On the back side of Iowa’s general election ballot, voters have a chance to vote yes or no on allowing two Iowa Supreme Court justices, two Iowa Court of Appeals judges, and dozens of lower court judges to remain on the bench.

No organizations are campaigning or spending money against retaining Justices Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott, whom Governor Kim Reynolds appointed in 2020.

Nevertheless, I expect the justices to receive a lower share of the retention vote than most of their predecessors. Shortly after the newest justices were part of a controversial ruling on abortion in June, the Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom found a partisan split in attitudes toward the Iowa Supreme Court, with a significant share of Democrats and independents disapproving of the court’s work.

This post seeks to provide context on how the justices up for retention have approached Iowa Supreme Court decisions that may particularly interest Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Iowa environmentalists react to Inflation Reduction Act

Meaningful Congressional action on climate change seemed doomed in the 50-50 U.S. Senate after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia tanked President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal earlier this year. But on August 7, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking 51st vote to approve the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. All Republicans, including Iowa’s Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, voted against final passage.

Assuming the U.S. House approves the bill (a vote is scheduled for August 12), Biden is poised to sign into law “the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far.” In addition to significant changes to the tax system and health care policy, the massive package includes $369 billion in spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy.

According to summaries of the bill’s energy and climate provisions, enclosed in full below, the bill could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, the bill’s incentives for the fossil fuels industry—which were necessary to get Manchin on board—are troubling for many environmental advocates.

Bleeding Heartland sought comment from some Iowans who have been engaged in policy battles related to climate change and the environment.

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Nitrate water levels threaten health

Tom Walton is an Iowa attorney and was a Democratic primary candidate in Iowa House district 28.

In early June, the Des Moines Water Works turned on its nitrate removal facility for the first time in five years. It had to do so because of increasing nitrate levels in in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Extra treatment is required to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Standards. For nitrate, that level is 10 milligrams of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) per liter of water. Des Moines Water Works provides drinking water to roughly 600,000 central Iowans.

This has been an ongoing battle. In 2013, nitrogen levels at the testing equipment near Van Meter upstream from on the Raccoon River from Des Moines were a record 24 mg/L—more than double the EPA safe level. On June 2 of this year, that station measured a median of 20.4 mg/L.

However, a growing body of scientific research indicates that long-term ingestion of water from public water sources with nitrogen levels below the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) have been associated with a higher risk of some forms of cancer and other adverse health effects, although more study is needed to support more conclusive results.

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Environmental scorecard for the Iowans in Congress

Sheri Albrecht is a member of Indivisible Cedar Rapids Metro and on the executive committees of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter and Cedar-Wapsie Group.

EcoFest 2022 was held on April 23 at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in celebration of Earth Day.

Our local Indivisible CR Metro group hosted a table. We had three goals: 1) Find out what issues were most important to the people who visited our table; 2) In keeping with the ecological theme of the event, provide data showing attendees how their legislative representatives voted on environmental issues; and 3) Encourage ordinary citizens to engage with their elected representatives.

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