Reconciliation bill focuses on enhancing research, fighting climate change in agriculture section


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 14, 2021

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee is planning to use a section of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to fund investments in urban agriculture and boosting the department’s programs to address climate change.

The bill sets aside $66 billion for agricultural measures, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. This funding also plans to provide funding for historically Black land grant colleges. The focus on climate change prevention intends to look at threats in farming and continue to work on decreasing environmental harms from agricultural practices.

$7 billion was set aside by the committee to fund general research and education programs regarding the advancement of agricultural and food systems in the United States.

Outside of agriculture funding, the package could provide $40 billion to help combat forest fires on public and private land if passed. Currently, wildfires in California are raging on and threatening various species in the state’s forests.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who represents Iowa’s 3rd district, also worked on inserting a provision in the reconciliation package to focus on biofuel expansions. The current investment is $1 billion.

U.S. House panel moves to clean up PFAs


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 24, 2021

The United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that aims to reduce Americans’ exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

PFAS are a hazardous, forever chemical that can be found all over the United States. The toxic chemicals is in drinking water, soil, and air because they are commonly used in nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing. The PFAS Action Act of 2021 aims to reclassify PFAS as hazardous substances and would begin federal cleanup standards. The legislation was approved 33-20.

The bill also specifically mentions the use of PFAS in firefighting foam and other related equipment. If the bill passes in the general assembly, the Environmental Protection Agency will oversee the investigation of and the preventions of contamination by these chemicals.

The two most well studied PFAs are perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluoro octane sulfonate, or PFOS. In April, a team of scientists found the forever chemicals in private wells near the Cedar Rapids airport in Iowa. Des Moines, Davenport, and Bettendorf also have high levels of these two chemicals.

If the bill is passed, the EPA would be able to designate all PFAS or only some as hazardous within five years of the bill being enacted.

U.S. House Panel Divided Over Proposed Regulation of Abandoned Gas and Oil Wells


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Nicole Welle | April 19, 2021

Members of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee agreed to cap abandoned gas and oil wells, but the two parties disagreed on the federal government’s role in regulating the project.

The U.S. House subcommittee met last week to discuss a bill that would authorize $8 billion over 10 years to clean up gas and oil wells abandoned by defunct companies. The bill falls under President Biden’s new infrastructure and jobs plan, and it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs for oil and gas workers displaced by the transition to renewable energy, according to an Iowa Capital Dispatch article.

While subcommittee members agreed on the need to clean up the wells, Republican leaders took issue with a section of the bill that would require states to increase regulations to receive federal funding. The provision would increase bond rates for gas and oil companies to help cover cleanup costs if they were to go bankrupt.

Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, called the provision “another attempt at destroying the industry.” However, conservationists believe it would protect wells from being abandoned in the future and reduce the number of wells emitting harmful pollutants.

“Even after society transitions away from fossil fuels, abandoned and orphan wells may be emitting methane and impacting our water, air and ecosystem for many years, decades and possibly centuries,” said Mary Kang, an assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University.

Eleven House republicans sign climate resolution before papal visit


Pope Francis during a visit to Brazil in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | September 23, 2015

During his visit to the United States this week Pope Francis is expected to address congress about climate change but it seems that his message may have already gotten through to some republicans in the House of Representatives.

Last week 11 representatives signed a resolution acknowledging humans’ role in climate change in an effort led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.). The move is seen as bold as others in the Republican party have taken a hard stance against research suggesting climate change has been caused by humans.

“If conservation isn’t conservative, then words have no meaning at all,” Gibson told the Albany Times Union. “Part of being conservative is judicious conservation of resources, both man-made and natural.”

Other signers of the resolution include: Representatives Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), David Reichert (Wash.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Ryan Costello (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (N.J.).

“Most of the sponsors of the resolution come from swing districts and many are vulnerable to reelection challenges next year,” The Hill writes.

Pope Francis arrived in United States on Tuesday and was greeted by President Obama and his family. Francis is expected to address congress on Thursday morning before flying back to Rome on Sunday. Fifty University of Iowa students are among hundreds of other Iowans flocking to Philadelphia to partake in the events which culminate with a Mass service Sunday afternoon.