Green State Credit Union, Big Grove Brewery partner to support water quality


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 5, 2021

Iowa’s Big Grove Brewery partnered with Green State Credit Union to create a beer to donate to the Iowa Environmental Council’s initiatives to clean the state’s waterways.

The “Greener State of Mind” beer was developed and put on the shelves of grocery and liquor stores in Iowa City in October. All of the funds raised by sales will go to the Iowa Environmental Council to improve Iowa waterways according to The Daily Iowan. Specifically, the money will go to “advocate for clean water and land stewardship, clean energy, and a healthy climate.”

The citrus pale ale features a graphic of Iowa’s rivers and waterways alongside the credit union’s green tree logo. The beer sold out in less than a month and can no longer be found on shelves. Head of Brand Marketing at Big Grove Brewery Janelle Buxton told the DI she is optimistic about raising more than $25,000 for the Iowa Environmental Council. Cleaning up the state’s waterways is currently one of the council’s main priorities when it comes to environmental advocacy alongside retiring coal plants in Iowa, focusing on energy efficiency, and increasing renewable energy usage.

This is the inaugural partnership between the two companies, but they plan to collaborate in the future and donate funds to other causes.

President Biden calls for climate action, apologizes for U.S. exit from the Paris Accord


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 2, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden urged countries at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference to invest in a decade of climate action.

He called on countries to transition to clean energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions at the conference in Glasgow, Scotland. He isolated more developed countries to commit to climate goals, including helping developing countries adapt to climate change.

According to Iowa Capital Dispatch, Biden said the U.S. and other mostly developed countries have a larger responsibility to address climate change. The 46th president also committed to trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in the U.S. Biden will announce additional plans to attain those goals, including combating deforestation.

Biden discussed his $1.75 trillion spending plan that hopes to create a strategy to reduce the risk of future natural disasters and shocks. Specifically, the plan promises more than $500 billion to climate initiatives. Congress might consider the plan soon. The “Build Back Better” plan also provides tax credits for clean energy industries in the country, an approach Biden said could create more jobs.

Biden also apologized for former President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.

Downed derecho trees turn into urban lumber


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 29, 2021

Thousands of downed trees from the 2020 derecho were originally turned into mulch, but now, some can be found in furniture, art, and housing materials.

The decision was made to get rid of the massive amount of trees across Cedar Rapids, one of the hardest hit areas in Iowa, according to The Cedar Rapids Gazette. Still, clean up of downed trees lasted months. Now, some trees have become urban lumber. Urban lumber is wood cut from trees that were grown within city limits that are not turned into mulch.

Urban lumber is now available in Des Moines and Iowa City at Habitat for Humanity stores. It’s available to anyone according to Aron Flickinger, a forestry program specialist at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Keeping the trees in their initial form and not making it into mulch keeps carbon locked instead of the chemical goes back into the atmosphere. 50 percent of the weight of wood is carbon.

Urban lumber has a multitude of uses. including cabinetry, furniture, flooring, and interior finishes.

Behavioral, public policy seminar on solar energy is coming to the University of Iowa


Via the University of Iowa’ Office of the Vice President for Research.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 26, 2021

Five panelists are coming to the University of Iowa on Wednesday to discuss the need for expanded solar energy at an event titled “Decarb 2040.”

The panel is comprised of academic, community, and industry experts who plan to present research on how decisions regarding the adoption of solar power in different locations are made. The presentation will take place on Oct. 27 from noon until 1:30 pm.

Following the presentation, a Q&A will focus on future research and funding opportunities. The panel consists of the following guests:

  • Chris Hoffman, Vice President of Solar PV Sales, Moxie Solar 
  • Ion “Bodi” Vasi, Associate Professor of Sociology and Management and Organizations
  • Charlie Nichols, Linn County Planning and Development 
  • Travis Kraus, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities 
  • Rachel Kilberg, City of Iowa City Assistant City Manager

The event is held via Zoom. Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend. Individuals can register here.

The University of Iowa’s Office of the Vice President of Research is hosting the event which aims to focus on Iowa as an energy exporter in the coming era of decarbonization. Iowa has abundant resources in solar and wind energy as well as bioenergy. The recent research focuses on how the state could use these resources to become a net exporter of energy by 2040 based on current plans to focus on energy sources that use less carbon.

Wind industry asks Congress for long-term production backing


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 22, 2021

Leaders of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. are calling for Congress to invest in ramping up production of wind energy.

The industry called on Congress to invest during a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on Thursday, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The Biden administration is also making a push for wind energy development to meet the president’s climate goals during his term. President Joe Biden set the goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 when he first started his term. Currently, the country generates 42 megawatts of offshore wind power. The plan to increase investment in wind power could reduce carbon and create jobs.

At Thursday’s committee meeting, Republican members of the committee voiced their concerns about discussing offshore wind power when energy prices are rising and colder weather approaches. Democrats argued the significant cost of climate change made the discussion important to the committee.

No commitment to increase investment into offshore wind power was made on Thursday, but industry leaders said the commitment needs to be long term to ensure competition.

Northeast Iowa farm co-op fined thousands for chemical discharge


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 20, 2021

A northeastern Iowa farmers’ cooperative agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for a discharge of ammonia.

Last year, the illegal discharge drained into a creek that feeds into the Turkey River, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The river is more than 150 miles long and flows into the Mississippi River. The pollution killed fish and other species present in the river. The dead fish tipped off a local fisherman who notified authorities in July 2020.

A state investigation followed that traced the pollution back to a drainage ditch in the region. The anhydrous ammonia drained into a water storage area at the Three Rivers FS Company. The company agreed to pay the fee without denying or admitting they were at fault.

The quantity of the fertilizer contamination is unknown at this time. The fertilizer was highly attracted to water and the Turkey River. According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources order in September, Three Rivers consistently pumped snow melt and rainwater into the water storage area. Following the pumping, the water flowed into the creek.

Since the original ammonia leakage, Iowa DNR Environmental Specialist Jessica Ragsdale told the Dispatch the company has altered their practices .

Iowa to see PFAS water testing


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 19, 2021

Iowans could will soon see testing for “forever chemicals” in their water supply.

State officials are preparing to begin testing specific water sources for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to at PFAS. The chemicals can lead to cancer and other health problems. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to start testing in the next few weeks, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The water monitoring will begin in central Iowa.

PFAS regulation has increased in recent months. In mid-June, the Environmental Protection Agency established a council on the chemicals. The council is specifically tasked with reducing the potential risks caused by these chemicals. Before the creation of the council, U.S. Representatives and Senators were pushing to reclassify PFAS.

The risk of PFAS is low, Supervisor of the Department’s Water Quality Program Roger Bruner said. He said a team from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will go to municipal water sources to sample the drinking water.

Iowa previously tested drinking water for PFAS during a federal monitoring system from 2013 until 2015. The original tests did not show any significant levels of contamination. There is no definitive date for when the results of the 2021 tests will be released to the public.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 press conference covers in-depth climate issues


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 15, 2021

Following the release of the 2021 Iowa Climate Statement, authors and signatories spoke with reporters to answers questions about climate issues in the state on Wednesday.

More than 200 professors and researchers signed the tenth annual statement. Chairman of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Drake University said the groups is “trying to identify the things we need to do to adapt to the climate regime,” at the press conference.

The statement specifically pointed at the summer 2020 derecho, a long-lived wind and rain storm often referred to as an inland hurricane. On the Zoom call, Gene Takle, an Iowa State University agronomy professor, said since Iowans don’t know when, in what form, or where an extreme weather event could occur down the road, there is a strong likelihood of another widespread power outage.

In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the weather event caused more than $11 billion in damages across the Midwest region. In Iowa alone, power was knocked out for more than half a million households across the state. Some Iowans waited two weeks for power outages to end according to Iowa Public Radio. Another weather event like the derecho could cost Iowans even more if the strength of the state’s infrastructure does not improve.

Co-director of the Center for Global and Environmental Research Jerry Schnoor said “people do realize this is a serious issue and that we will need to act.” He said the pushes towards renewable energy and other climate goals in the state are not happening fast enough.


The 2021 statement and the recording of Wednesday’s press conference can be found here.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 13, 2021

Since 2011, researchers and educators at nearly every college and university in Iowa have produced annual statements to communicate in plain language the state of climate science and the impacts of climate change on Iowans. Today, the Climate Statement for 2021 was released. This year’s focus is on Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure.

Last year’s August derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history, knocked out power to more than 500,000 Iowa households for as much as two weeks. “The loss of power left people in the dark without air conditioning, refrigeration, access to food, phone chargers and life sustaining medical equipment,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “This was a potentially deadly combination for many vulnerable and low income Iowans.”

“Iowa’s power outages from the 2020 derecho resulted from extreme damage to transmission and distribution systems,” said Jim McCalley, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Iowa State University.

Climate disasters are not over. To prepare for future Iowa extreme weather events, it is recommended that industry, policy makers and stakeholders identify ways to strengthen Iowa’s electric infrastructure, protect vulnerable people, and consider enhanced risks from climate change while managing costs. Climate change is here. We need a resilient electric infrastructure as we curtail carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Increased frequency of dangerous heat events


Via the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 12. 2021

In 2019, Iowa climate activists were concerned about the frequency and severity of dangerous heat events. Through the Iowa Climate Statement two years ago, signatories informed Iowans they would be seeing more extreme weather disasters in coming years.

The statement focused on the Earth’s surface continuing to warm at an unprecedented rate, as recent years continually breaking records for the hottest years on record. Hundreds of Iowans signed the climate statement, agreeing that Midwesterners ware seeing dramatic changes in weather with changing rainfall, higher humidity, and warmer nights. Many homes in lower-income areas across the U.S. were not equipped with air conditioning units, leading to more incidents of heat stroke and potential fatalities.

The 2019 Iowa Climate Statement suggested adaptions to these increasingly severe and frequent heat events would require more preparedness, increased energy usage to cool houses and buildings, changing livestock facilities, and halting outdoor work in extreme heat conditions.

Two years later, heat remains the leading cause of weather-related deaths. Another concern from 2019 that remains is the risk to animals with increasing temperatures. Hogs, cattle, and poultry are essential to Iowa’s agricultural industry and the animals continually are at risk of dying from extreme heat events alongside human beings.

Iowa has seen record-breaking heat waves in the past few months. Heat advisories were administered across the country, including in the Midwest where Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois saw several days where temperatures ranged in the 100s. Concerns regarding dangerous heat waves continue in Iowa as they become more frequent and severe, as predicted by the Iowa Climate Statement in 2019.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions.