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Working together for a healthier environment

The Council's policy priorities for 2013

The Iowa Environmental Council is an alliance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa’s natural environment. For a policy position to be right for the Iowa Environmental Council, it should:

  • Require a substantial amount of work,

  • Present a reasonable opportunity for success,

  • Be of statewide significance, and

  • Allow the Council to play a leadership role.

Water and land stewardship | Energy and climate change | Clean air

Water and land stewardship (top)

Agricultural nonpoint source pollution

Runoff and subsurface drainage from cropland and livestock operations are the largest contributors to water quality impairments in Iowa lakes and rivers.  Efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution will continue to be the top water program priority for the Council over the next year.

Nutrient Pollution Reduction Strategy

The nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural cropland are the largest source of impairment to Iowa rivers and lakes. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy provides a specific opportunity for the Council to engage in the state’s plan to reduce these pollutants. The Iowa strategy sets an aggressive goal of 45% reduction for nitrogen and phosphorus loads from Iowa rivers to the Mississippi River and the Gulf.  This strategy includes new nitrogen and phosphorus technology based limits for large point sources and a new science assessment that evaluates the nutrient reduction effectiveness of various conservation practices for nonpoint sources.

At present, the state Nutrient Strategy lacks accountability and timelines.  Missing from the strategy are both specific goals for Iowa waters (including numeric nutrient criteria) and effective mechanisms to determine progress toward the overall reduction goal or meeting of specific state water quality goals. The Iowa Environmental Council supports development of these critical goals and measurement tools and will:

  • work with DNR, IDALS, stakeholders, and policymakers to advocate for the technical, legal and financial resources necessary to successfully implement nutrient reduction practices outlined in the Science Assessment of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. 
  • engage in a broad based effort to educate Iowan’s more generally on the need for nutrient reductions to meet Iowans’ clean water expectations.
  • work with conservation professionals to determine the best way to reach farmers and landowners and determine the information and resources that would be required to make needed changes in their operations.
  • consult with agricultural and conservation professionals to identify new mechanisms to assure accountability for reductions in agricultural pollution, including common sense conservation requirements along with a more targeted voluntary incentive program.
  • work to ensure critical landscape scale features such as grass buffers and wetlands are identified and protected where they exist and restored where they are needed as part of a watershed scale solution.  

Other agricultural nonpoint source pollution

In addition to our work to improve the Iowa nutrient reduction strategy, in 2014 we will:

  • continue our advocacy for maintenance of funding in the Farm Bill for key conservation programs on working farmland (EQIP and CSP) and for continued funding of easement programs for wetlands and grasslands/trees (WRP and CRP).  Even with expected budget cuts, the federal programs administered by USDA will remain the largest source of funding for farm conservation work in Iowa.
  • seek to improve the effectiveness of Conservation Compliance in the Farm Bill to assure a basic level of conservation on farms that receive taxpayer funded subsidies, including crop and revenue insurance.
  • work with DNR, IDALS and policy makers to improve the environmental performance of state and federal agricultural conservation programs through improved watershed planning and use of new technologies such as LIDAR coverage to better target the right practices in the right place in the landscape to get the maximum environmental benefit.

Water quality standards and enforcement

The Council supports the enforcement of The Clean Water Act and requests the IDNR to fulfill their obligation to do so. In 2013 we will:

  • continue ongoing work on stream use designations (UAAs) and implementation of the antidegradation rules that were adopted in 2010. 
  • work with DNR and EPA to speed adoption of nutrient criteria for lakes, rivers, and streams and development of new use designations and standards for wetlands and cold water streams.
  • ensure that DNR properly exercises existing Clean Water Act authority (including Total Maximum Daily Load plans and narrative water quality standards) when issuing or renewing wastewater discharge permits.
  • work with DNR and EPA to ensure adequate staff for inspection and enforcement of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and to improve enforcement policies for manure spills and fish kills from all sizes of livestock operations to prevent damage to Iowa waters.
  • review wetland fill permits to ensure compliance with Clean Water Act.

Conservation funding

In November 2010, 64% of Iowans demonstrated their commitment to the environment by approving the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which will, when funded, have widespread positive impacts on water quality, soil conservation and habitat in the state.

Despite that, during the last session, the legislature approved substantial cuts in environmental programming that threaten the goals of many of our member organizations.  It is expected that environmental funding will continue to be at risk as it is pitted against our economic instability.
The Council supports the goal of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) to supplement or increase current funding for natural resources and environmental programming. The Council does not support the supplanting (or ‘backfilling’) of existing programs with funds generated by IWILL. The Council will support the efforts of IWILL by engaging in outreach to build grassroots and grasstops support for a 3/8 cent sales tax increase, when the time is right for Iowa, which will fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.  We will continue to work to ensure the IDNR and IDALS have sufficient funds to accomplish their missions.

The Council will work with partners to obtain full funding of the REAP program and continued funding for recreational trails, and to win support for the Wildlife Diversity Program, the Bluff Land State Revolving Fund, and funding for invasive species removal and education.
Additionally the Council will work with regional partners to affect the federal budget allocation process and ensure that necessary environmental funding is obtained.

Energy and Climate Change (top)

Energy efficiency

The Council will work to strengthen the utility energy efficiency programs in Iowa. Our action in this area will:

  • Engage directly with utilities and stakeholders, including intervention in Iowa Utilities Board proceedings, to ensure that energy efficiency plans are effectively implemented and maximize savings. The Council will ensure that utilities achieve the maximum possible energy savings now with a longer-term goal of saving 2% of retail sales annually. We support improving efficiency policies and plans so all Iowans have access to leading energy efficiency programs.
  • Reduce the energy use of buildings with energy and building codes. The Council will work to improve compliance and enforcement of current energy and building codes and support the adoption of the newest codes.

Renewable energy

The Council will advocate for policies and practices at the local, state, and federal level that encourage development of distributed renewable energy technologies, combined heat and power, and large-scale renewable energy projects. Actions we support will:

  • Improve the financial incentives and technical assistance available for farmers, businesses, and residents to own their own wind turbine, solar panel, or other clean energy technology. This may include preserving, improving, or expanding incentives such as net metering, loan and grant programs, tax credits, third party power purchase agreements, and renewable incentive rates.  It may also include removing barriers, such as unfair interconnection practices, high utility standby rates and demand charges, and overly restrictive local ordinances.
  • Ensure that sufficient high-voltage transmission infrastructure exists to allow for significant additions of wind power, such as reaching 10,000 megawatt and 20,000 megawatt milestones of installed wind capacity in Iowa. Transmission constraints are already limiting wind energy development, but specific proposals are moving forward to facilitate the construction of additional wind capacity. The Council will work with partners to evaluate these proposals and support them when appropriate.
  • Establish long-term targets for clean energy both in Iowa and in the U.S.

Climate policy

The Council will support adoption and effective implementation of the EPA’s forthcoming carbon pollution rules for existing power plants, also known as Section 111(d) rules. These rules offer the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the largest sector in Iowa, the power sector, while increasing Iowa’s use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

Retire existing coal plants

Iowa still relies on many aging coal plants that were built in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and are highly polluting. The Council will support efforts to retire these coal plants or repower them with cleaner fuels. This will include coordinating with other Council programs on environmental permits and compliance with new and expected EPA regulations.

Complementary clean energy policies

The Council will support the work of our partners on a range of policies and practices that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. For example, the Council will support policies to significantly expand passenger transit choices such as bus and rail and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

Air Quality (top)

Due to funding limitations, the Council does not have dedicated air program staff.  The Council will continue to advocate for policy changes to improve air quality in the state of Iowa.  Many air quality issues are being addressed through the Council’s other programs.  Targeted issues will be supported as funding becomes available.