Iowa Environmental Council annual conference this week

This year’s Iowa Environmental Council conference will be held at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa. (FFA Enrichment Center)
Jenna Ladd | October 3, 2017

The Iowa Environmental Council will hold its annual conference this Thursday, October 5th at a Des Moines Area Community College facility in Ankeny. Titled “ACT Iowa: Local Solutions for a Healthier Environment,” the conference will discuss solutions to pressing environmental problems.

The all-day event will include several break-out sessions with topics ranging from watershed management and sustainable housing to local food systems and environmental advocacy. The conference will welcome Nicolette Hahn Niman, livestock rancher, attorney and author, as its keynote speaker. Hahn Niman has published two books related to sustainable meat production and written several pieces for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the LA Times.

The Iowa Environmental Council is the largest environmental coalition in the state, serving as a nonpartisan group working to promote clean water and land stewardship, clean energy, and a healthy climate.

Individuals interested in registering for the event can do so here.

What: ACT Iowa: Local Solutions for a Healthier Environment, hosted by the Iowa Environmental Council

When: October 5th, 2017 from 8 am to 5 pm

Where: DMACC FFA Enrichment Center,1055 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy, Ankeny, IA 50023

Iowa Environmental Council 2016 Annual Conference

Jenna Ladd | September 15, 2016

The Iowa Environmental Council will host its 2016 Annual Conference titled ECOnomics: Dollars, Sense & Sustainability next month in Ankeny. This year’s conference will focus on policies, programs, and practices that benefit the economy, communities and the environment.

Keynote Speaker Jon D. Erikson

The keynote address, “We the Planet: Building an Ecological Economy in the Age of Humans,” will be given by Jon D. Erikson. Erikson is a Fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and a Professor at the Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. The daylong event will also feature Speaker of Honor Rob Bilott. Bilott will discuss the regulatory, legal and scientific challenges of ‘unregulated’ drinking water contaminants during his address. The conference also features a panel of business owners that practice environmental stewardship.

ECOnomics: Dollars, Sense & Sustainability will take place at the DMACC Ankeny Campus on October 6th, 2016. The event has been approved for 3.25 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit, and discounted rates are available for students. For more details or to register, visit the event website.

Keynote speaker Jon D. Erikson offers a crash course in ecological economics during his work with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics in 2011.



New anti-degradation regulations effective today despite criticism

A construction site on the Iowa River near Dubuque Street in Iowa City, Iowa. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | August 12, 2016

Major changes to Iowa’s water quality protection rules are effective today, following a decision by the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) on Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Commission, an agency that oversees the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), voted to change anti-degradation rules this week despite criticism from two Iowa environmental groups. Under previous regulation, construction projects that would pollute Iowa’s waterways were required to perform a three-part analysis of the project, including a cost-benefit analysis that considered pollution-reducing alternatives.

After a District Court judge ruled that DNR failed to enforce anti-degradation regulation in March, The Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the Iowa League of Cities, and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities petitioned for changes to water pollution standards. Proponents of the changes say that the cost-benefit analysis was too unclear and expensive for businesses looking to build or expand operations. Under new rule, cost-benefit analysis is no longer required.

The Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center argue that the regulation change fails to consider the environment, ignoring the value of pollution reduction and economic cost of contaminated water. Environmental Law & Policy Center attorney Josh Mandelbaum said EPC rushed the decision, “This is the fastest I’ve seen rule-making move.”

The formation of previous water pollution and anti-degradation rules took regulators two years and involved stakeholders from municipalities, industry, and concerned citizens. In contrast, the establishment of new regulations spans a five month period. Mandelbaum added, “DNR has made no effort to bring stakeholders together to address these changes, and as a result, the final rules have significant problems.”

Solar power use in Iowa expected to grow

Nick Fetty | August 18, 2014
Solar farm in Spain. (Wikipedia)
Solar farm in Spain. (Wikipedia)

Solar energy use in the Iowa is expected to rise in coming years and much of it can be attributed to decreased installation and equipment costs.

The cost to produce energy using solar panels has deceased from 21.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2010 to 11.2 cents per kWh in 2013. The U.S. Department of Energy hopes this decreases to 6 cents per kWh by 2020 which is when solar energy is expected to become the world’s most inexpensive form of energy.

The Iowa Department of Revenue has awarded $ 1,280,243 in Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credits in 2014. This is nearly double the 2012 figure of $ 650,914. A report by the Iowa Environmental Council ranks Iowa 16th nationally for potential of solar energy production and estimates that 20 percent of the state’s annual electricity needs could be met using rooftop solar grids.

Critics of solar power say the source’s reliability can be intermittent depending on sunlight availability and in California an increase in the number of solar plants has been detrimental for bird species in the state.

Iowa’s largest solar farm – expected to produce enough energy to power 120 homes – opened in Johnson County last month.


On the Radio: Iowa’s solar energy future is looking bright

Photo by Chandra Marsono; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers a new report released by the Iowa Environmental Council that supports the growth of solar energy in Iowa. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Continue reading

Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission will not require new nutrient level standards

Photo by josquin2000; Flickr

The commission sided with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in a unanimous vote. The DNR encouraged the commission to reject a petition from environmental groups urging the state to adopt new standards.

The DNR cited “insufficient time” passed since the commission last looked at the issue of nutrient lake pollution, a lack of study of the results of the state’s new nutrient reduction strategy, and other reasons for not wanting to adopt the standards requested in a petition by the Iowa Environmental Council, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and other groups.

To learn more, check out The Gazette. 

Iowa Environmental Council announces Joe Whitworth, freshwater restoration expert, will deliver keynote at Oct. 11 conference

Address is part of day-long event focusing on speeding up progress for clean water, clean energy in Iowa.

DES MOINES — The Iowa Environmental Council is excited to announce Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust in Portland, Oregon, will deliver the keynote address at its annual conference October 11 in Des Moines.

Joe Whitworth
Joe Whitworth

A native Midwesterner who spent summers in Iowa, Whitworth has dedicated the last two decades of his career to dramatically speeding the pace of freshwater restoration through innovative solutions like pollution credit trading.

“Given the trends of freshwater indicators and wild fish populations, it has become clear that the traditional conservation methods engaged over the last quarter century are proving inadequate to demands placed on our ecosystems,” says Whitworth. “We must change course.”

At The Freshwater Trust, Whitworth and his team focus on cooperative, market-based solutions that benefit rivers, working lands and local communities – from working with landowners to keep more water in our streams to creating more effective processes for improving aquatic habitat using a localized approach.

The organization has developed strategies for water quality credit trading programs as well as an innovative, patented online platform to manage the funding, permitting, and implementation of restoration projects. “We’re not a think-tank, we’re a ‘do-tank,’” Whitworth said, “and our singular focus is to provide the  platform for practical conservation. At scale.”

Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, said Iowans share Whitworth’s desire to increase the pace of freshwater restoration. “With extraordinary nitrate levels in drinking water sources, continuing algae blooms, and other consequences of water pollution threatening Iowans’ health and quality of life, it is clear we need to
move beyond past approaches that have been too slow,” Rosenberg said.

The Freshwater Trust’s efforts to invest in protecting nature’s benefits—habitat, filtration of drinking water, supporting food production and recreation, and others—underscore why environmental protection matters to Iowans.

“Iowans know we have some of the mostproductive land in the whole world,” Rosenberg said. “But it is important for us to place value on the whole range of benefits our land and water provide us now and in the future.”

Registration is open now for the Iowa Environmental Council’s Annual Conference, “At the Tipping Point: Creating Momentum for a Healthier Iowa Environment.” Details on the event are available at, or by calling 515-244-1194, extension 210.