Muscatine citizens seek voice in state’s suit against grain processor

Photo by apo lanthar, Flickr.

A group of 40 Muscatine citizens known as Clean Air Muscatine (CLAM) is seeking to have its voice included in the state’s lawsuit against an alleged corporate polluter, Grain Processing Corporation (GPC).

In a lawsuit filed last month, The Iowa Department of Natural Resources alleges that GPC is a major source of hazardous air pollutants including formaldehyde, hydochloric acid and methanol.

Clean Air Muscatine is arguing that the state cannot adequately represent their interests, and is attempting to intervene in the case. Several members submitted sworn affidavits to the court describing the effects of the pollution.

“I believe GPC considers environmental fines as an operational expense, a cost of operation,” wrote Rev. Jim Turner of United Musserville Methodist Church, located across the street from the plant. “GPC and the individuals that govern it need to be responsible and held accountable for their actions.”

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Cases of Chronic Wasting Disease found in deer near Iowa

Photo by kkirugi, Flickr

As we reported last month, there has never been a confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Iowa. CWD is a fatal disease that affects deer, elk and moose, and causes microscopic holes to form in the animals’ heads.

On Tuesday the Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed that two deer found near the border of Missouri and Iowa tested positive for CWD.

4,500 samples collected in Iowa during 2011 are currently being tested for the disease.

Read the Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release here.

On the Radio: Safety tips for winter ice activities

Photo by Tom Gill (lapstrake), Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment suggests a number of safety tips for winter ice activities.

Iowa’s frozen rivers and lakes can provide an excellent setting for a number of recreational activities – but do you know how to avoid falling through the ice?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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USDA updates Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The updated PHZM shows a significant shift in Iowa's average annual minimum temperatures. Image courtesy of the USDA.

The United States Department of Agriculture released an updated version of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM) this week, a tool often used by gardeners and researchers to determine the average annual lowest temperature at a given location during a particular time period.

This update marks the first time the USDA has modified the PHZM since 1990, and the changes are significant. In some instances, entire states have been shifted into warmer zones. This would imply that some plant species can now survive farther north than before.

“People who grow plants are well aware of the fact that temperatures have gotten more mild throughout the year, particularly in the wintertime,” said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack. “There’s a lot of things you can grow now that you couldn’t grow before.”

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Iowa lawmakers debate whistle-blowing methods on farms

Photo by edmundyeo, Flickr

Back in June, video footage surfaced of animal cruelty towards pigs at Iowa Select Farms.

The video was filmed by investigators for the animal rights organization, Mercy for Animals. They were able to obtain the footage using a small undercover camera after getting hired to work at the pig farm.

Some Iowa lawmakers are now trying to pass laws that will make it illegal for investigators to obtain agricultural jobs under false pretenses. Additionally, some lawmakers believe there should be laws against filming farm activity without permission of the farm owner.

Read the full article from the Sioux City Journal here.

Controversial nuclear bill revived

Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa's lone nuclear source.

A controversial bill that outlines steps for MidAmerican Energy to build a nuclear power plant in Iowa was revived and approved today by a Senate subcommittee.

The bill, House File 561, failed to advance through the Senate last year.

Critics were angered by the legislation’s sudden resurrection.

“The nuclear industry and MidAmerican Energy specifically would have us believe that nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap when in actuality it is very dangerous and expensive,” said Mike Carberry, an Iowa member of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group based in Washington, D.C.

Advocates of the bill argued that this legislation will help Iowa avoid a potential energy crisis by diversifying the state’s energy sources.

“This bill represents just another piece of that journey to create a more diverse energy sources for our citizens of the state of Iowa,” said John Gilliland, senior vice president of government relations of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

The bill will be considered by a full committee on Tuesday, and must pass both the Senate and the House before it can be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Iowa sees major increases in protected land

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region, Flickr

This is slightly dated news that we missed, but is significant enough to still deserve a mention . . .

The amount of land protected in Iowa continues to increase. Over the last five years, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) has permanently protected more than 36,000 acres.

This raises the total number of acres protected by INHF to 123,000.

Iowa is not the only state increasing their protected areas; nationally, 10 million new acres have been conserved since 2005.

For more information, read the press release from INHF here.