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 is the largest contributor to water quality impairments in Iowa lakes and rivers and will continue to be the top water program priority for the Council over the next year.
The Council believes the proposed nutrient reduction strategy which the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and partners released in November 2012 which solely relies on voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient pollution from farms will fall short of protecting water quality. However, the Council 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. The Council will continue to 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. In addition to our work to improve the Iowa nutrient reduction strategy, in 2013 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.
- 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.
Iowa has lost 90 to 95 percent of its natural wetlands mostly due to installation of extensive subsurface drainage. In 2013, we will educate Iowans about the value and function of wetlands for storage and cleansing of water and providing wildlife habitat. We will identify new policies and programs to restore and protect our natural wetlands and work to assure that public money for constructed wetlands is used to provide public benefits including nitrate removal, wildlife habitat, and mitigation of flood risk.
Riparian areas and floodplains
Following several devastating floods in Iowa over the past 18 years, it is time to take a new look at the appropriate management and use of riparian corridors and floodplain areas. We will educate the public on benefits of well managed riparian corridors to absorb and filter water. We will promote new incentives to protect natural riparian areas from development and support adding new ecologically appropriate buffers in place of cropland or urban development.
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)
The Council will work to strengthen the utility-provided energy efficiency programs currently offered in Iowa and to ensure future programs save even more energy. Our action in this area will:
- engage directly with utilities and other 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 houses and buildings with energy and building codes. The Council will also work to improve compliance and enforcement of current energy and building codes and support the adoption of the newest energy codes.
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 improving and expanding incentives such as net metering, loan and grant programs, tax credits, and advanced renewable tariffs and 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 emerging to facilitate the construction of additional wind generation 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.
Retire or repower 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. The Council will:
- support policies to significantly expand passenger transit choices such as bus and rail and reduce vehicle miles traveled.
- oppose policies related to new nuclear power that come at the expense of our above priorities on energy efficiency and renewable energy. However, the Council will maintain a neutral position on the technology of nuclear power itself.
- integrate solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions into Iowa flood recovery plans, such as putting perennial grasses and forbs on the landscape and rebuilding with energy-efficient communities.
- encourage initiatives that advance workforce development and economic development in clean energy sectors.
- monitor plans for new natural gas plants with attention to the link between these proposals and Council priorities on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and retirement of existing coal plants.
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.