Iowans ask to halt CAFO construction until water is clean


12662848663_b1a625de55_o.jpg
Large livestock feeding operations often pollute local waterways with organic waste. (Waterkeeper Alliance/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | January 19, 2017

Local, state and national organizations showed up at the capitol in Des Moines this week to ask lawmakers to halt Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) construction until fewer than 100 of Iowa’s waterways are impaired.

Called Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, the coalition rallied behind Independent Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan as he introduced a group of 15 bills designed to tighten environmental regulations on large hog farms. At present, 750 of the state’s waterways are polluted to the point of impairment due to industrial agriculture byproducts.

Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines Water Works and member of the coalition, said that industrial agriculture is making Iowa’s “rivers, lakes and streams filthy — filthy with nutrients, filthy with bacteria, filthy with organic matter,” according to the Register.

He added, “Iowans need to push back on this and join together with leaders here in the Legislature to stop the status quo.”

There are 13,000 CAFOs in the state of Iowa and that number continues to grow. The current regulatory document for new hog facilities was developed in 2002 and only requires CAFOs to meet 50 percent of its requirements to be approved for construction.

Senator Johnson’s package of bills would also require CAFO applicants to notify nearby landowners and give county supervisors the power to determine CAFO locations. Johnson said, “It’s time to get tough on the poor siting of hog confinements, including those being built in environmentally sensitive areas, where the smell and sound of someone else’s money is in your bedroom every night.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Reynolds has said that she would consider the legislation if it reaches her desk.

States resist federal move to expand offshore drilling


4733407088_697a7375e2_o.jpg
A 100 foot flame flares above the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. (Jim McKinley/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | January 18, 2018

More states are lining up to be exempt from the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling in the United States.

The administration released a proposal earlier in January to make nearly all U.S. coasts available for drilling over the next five years. Last week, the U.S. Interior Department’s Ryan Zinke granted Florida’s coasts exempt from the deal after a short meeting with Gov. Rick Perry, citing concern for the state’s tourist economy. Shortly after, requests to be excluded from the proposal from other coastal states rolled in. Governors and state officials from Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Delaware have asked for meetings with Zinke to discuss the plan’s threat to tourism industries.

Governor John Carney of Delaware posted a Tweet last week, “Tourism and recreation along the Delaware coastline account for billions in economic activity each year, and support tens of thousands of jobs.”

The only states in support of the plan are Alaska and Maine.

Aside from repelling tourists, offshore drilling has serious implications for ocean life and human health. One drilling platform typically releases 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluids and metal cuttings into the sea. Drilling fluids, or drilling muds, which lubricate wells and cool drill pipes, contain toxic chemicals that harm aquatic life. When oil is pumped, water from underground surfaces along with it. Called “produced water,” it contains anywhere from 30 to 40 parts per million of oil. For example, each year in Alaska’ Cook Inlet, 2 billion gallons of produced water contaminates the area with 70,000 gallons of oil.

This new plans marks another rollback of Obama’s environmental legacy, which prohibited offshore drilling in 94 percent of U.S.’s coastal waters.

Solar panels bring new life to Chernobyl disaster site


chernobyl
The Ukrainian government is seeking to bring new life to the abandoned plant. (/shutterstock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | January 16th, 2018

Sections of the long-abandoned site of the 1986 nuclear accident are being repurposed by the Ukrainian government for solar power.

Around 25 square kilometers have been opened up for solar projects and energy proposals, most taking place within the “sarcophagus”–a metal dome designed to seal leftover radiation leakage away from nearby residents. Solar panels are attached to concrete slabs placed over the toxic soil, facing skyward; once up and running, the panels are estimated to produce enough energy to consistently power a small village–around 2,000 homes.

Chernobyl’s nuclear plant stood near the small village of Pripyat, back when Ukraine was under control of the USSR. During a safety test, one of the reactors within the plant exploded from steam pressure, spewing toxic radiation into the air and killing approximately 32 people. The plant itself continued to run after the meltdown until its eventual shutdown in December of 2000, but the surrounding land has suffered the consequences of radiation fallout well after the initial disaster.

The earth surrounding the nuclear site is too poisoned and damaged to be farmed or inhabited, so the government sought another way to utilize this skeleton of a plant; a memorial to one of the country’s greatest environmental disasters.

Yevgen Varyagin, the current head of the Chernobyl Solar Project, is passionate about the potential the site has for producing clean energy: “It shouldn’t be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine.

 

Australia’s carbon emissions continuing to rise


8404272089_88a1462079_o.jpg
Australia (Mauro/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 12, 2018

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rose for the 3rd consecutive year. According to the Environment Department, carbon rose 0.7% this year because of an increase in gas production and exports. In 2016, Australia’s levels rose 0.8% and they were warned they were off track to miss the 2030 target set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Australia’s government signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 which outlined a plan to reduce emissions 26-28% by 2030.

Despite the increasing carbon levels, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg claims they are still on track and, “the final decision on the timing and appropriate quantity and quality limits will be taken by 2020 following further consultation and detailed analysis.” “If you look on a yearly basis [it] is true [that emissions went up]. But if you look on the last quarter, they went down. If you look at the trend, it is improving.”

Minister Frydenberg’s statement is not congruent with the 2017 United Nations Emissions Gap Report that stated the “government projections indicate that emissions are expected to reach 592 [million tonnes] in 2030, in contrast to the targeted range of 429-440 [million tonnes]. The Environment Department‘s most recent review said that Australia is currently responsible for 1.3% of carbon emissions.

California Wildfires


Kasey Dresser | January 5, 2018

Hello everybody!

I’m Kasey and I’m a student at the University of Iowa. I’m currently visiting home during winter break in beautiful San Diego, California. And as I’m sure you seen on the news I came home after an extremely destructive fire season.  Luckily I live closer to the coast so my home was not affected but my grandma and several of my friends were evacuated.  All of the local high schools, including my sisters, were closed. Last weekend, My dad and I headed inland to film the damage.

 

Turning food waste into green energy


502155430_4e6402872e_o.jpg
Wasting Food (jbloom/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 3,  2018

Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food each year. Not only is that a waste of natural resources but food waste produces methane which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Researchers at Cornell University have been looking at more productive ways of using leftover food.

The process is a combination of hydrothermal liquefaction and anaerobic digestion.

Hydrothermal liquefaction is a process where the food is heated (kind of like a pressure cooker) to extract oil that can be used for fuel.

The anaerobic digestion process breaks down the microbes in the food waste into a mixture primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. This gas can be used to power heat and electricity.

Other methods of turning food waste into energy are also being developed but Roy Posmanik, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell, is really excited about this quick new solution. “We’re talking about minutes in hydrothermal liquefaction and a few days in an anaerobic digester,” he said in a written statement. Posmanik says he could see a day where all food waste from homes, supermarkets, restaurants are immediately shipped to treatment plans. Posmanik needs to do more research before he discovers the cost but “government incentives for renewable energy credits can make a lot of difference.”

 

Iowan cities reducing pollution to fulfill Paris Climate Change Agreement


33744766946_c3a6ab2606_o.jpg
Wind Power (Ian Hill/ flickr) 
Kasey Dresser | December 29,  2017

Since Trump has officially pulled support from the Paris Climate Change Accord, mayors within the U.S. are pledging for their cities to help meet the goals. 50 plus mayors signed the Chicago Climate Charter to meet Paris Climate Agreement’s pollution reduction goals during the North American Climate Summit. Des Moines, Dubuque, Fairfield, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and several other Iowan mayors have now stepped up to do the same.

There are 3 main goals to reduce pollution:

  1. Utilizing Iowa’s wind power, achieve 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022.
  2. Buying Electric Vehicles (EV) to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Replacing buildings with incandescent bulbs to LEDS and getting rid of any old appliances or softwares.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is excited that cities are stepping up and plans to make arrangement that will tailor to Iowa’s benefit.