Compare the contenders for Iowa governor on environmental issues

The Iowa State Capitol might have a new governor come November. (Scott Schumacher/flickr)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 7, 2018

After Tuesday’s primary election, the race for Iowa governor has been narrowed down to two contenders — incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, and retired businessman and Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell.

The election is still a few months away, but it’s not too early to compare the two candidates. Here’s a breakdown of their stances on environmental issues.

Gov. Kim Reynolds

Reynolds’ campaign website does not give any indication of her stances on environmental issues. But, she has been the governor of Iowa since May 2017, when former Gov. Terry Branstad vacated the position, allowing then-Lt. Gov. Reynolds to assume the helm.

Looking at the past year of Reynolds’ leadership, she has signed two notable bills relating to the environment.

One, Senate File 2311, signed May 4, changed some laws surrounding utilities, and aimed to extend natural gas into rural areas and increase transparency for utility customers.

The Iowa Environmental Council criticized this bill, stating it “guts energy efficiency programs and allows municipal utilities to discriminate against solar energy customers.”

Second, Reynolds signed Senate File 512 on Jan. 31, a $282 million allocation for improving Iowa’s water quality.

“This law is a significant step in the right direction and should ignite a continuing conversation as we work to make a positive impact on water quality in Iowa,” Reynolds said in a statement after she signed the bill.

The Des Moines Register reported, however, that the funding was merely a “drop in the bucket” compared to the estimated $4 billion needed to make a difference in Iowa’s water quality.

The Iowa Environmental Council also condemned this bill for taking a “business as usual” approach and lacking the scientific basis and financial resources needed for substantial change.

Former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, however, supported the bill. also issued a statement on SF 512, he said the funding will allow the Department of Agriculture to expand investment in locally led water quality projects in targeted watersheds, while also giving farmers and landowners statewide a chance to try practices focused on water quality.

“Passage of this long-term water quality funding bill with bipartisan support is a tremendous next step as we work to continue scaling up the water quality efforts underway statewide,” he said.

Fred Hubbell

The Democratic nominee lists “environment” as one of his priorities on his campaign website. Though Hubbell has no political experience to evaluate his history of environmental policy support, his website touts his long-time advocacy for environmental issues, including supporting renewable energy initiatives while he was chairman of the Iowa Power Fund.

In an interview with Iowa Public Radio, Hubbell criticized Senate File 512 for lacking methods to monitor progress in water quality. He called for more transparent efforts to improve water quality so that Iowans can see progress being made.

“The taxpayers should be able to see whether they’re getting a return with less nutrients, less nitrates in the water, and the farmers are getting better soil, then let’s know that so taxpayers know their money is being well spent,” Hubbell said to IPR.

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