Thursday, March 10, 2011

Iowa Environmental Council

From Iowa Environmental Council's web site:

You can open this as a PDF file at http://www.iaenvironment.org/documents/ENews_03_2011.pdf

If Enacted, Bill Would Cripple Iowa's Air Quality Program

To cover budget shortfalls and keep a federally mandated state air quality program operating, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has recommended increasing emissions fees charged to all facilities that are major sources of air pollution, but lawmakers have introduced a bill in an attempt to block that from happening.

House File 402 would cap the per-ton emissions fees charged to big emitters of air pollutants under Title V of the federal Clear Air Act at their current rate. The bill also forbids the use of some potential sources of revenue that could help offset the emissions-based loss of income, such as charging fees for new-construction permits.

Currently, fees are based on the first 4,000 tons of emissions for each covered pollutant and are used to cover the cost of operating this air program at the DNR. A process to revise the fee system was approved by the Environmental Protection Commission in January and is underway at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Lee Searles, air quality program director for the non-profit Iowa Environmental Council, said the impacts of HF 402 would be felt as soon as July and could result in the loss of 23 jobs that are high-quality professional jobs in engineering, permit review, monitor evaluation and analysis, small business support, and community support services.

"Business and industry interests in Iowa seem to support House File 402, even though it would probably make Iowa's air quality programs fall out of compliance with federal Clean Air Act requirements. That could lead to a loss of our state-friendly program and its replacement by federal agency authority," said Searles.

Action Alert: e-mail to your legislators, asking them to vote "NO" on this bill.
For Questions: Lee Searles, 515-244-1194 ext 204, searles@iaenvironment.org


Question for Governor Branstad: "Why Transfer Department of Natural Resource's Water Quality Programs to the Iowa Department of Agriculture?"

The Iowa Environmental Council is opposing measures to move Iowa‘s water quality programs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Legislators say these Senate and House bills have come at the request of the Governor and say this is because water quality programming can be done "more efficiently" if given to the Secretary of Agriculture.

"I have seen no study or assessment that shows this move will create efficiencies, save money or continue to provide protections for our water quality," said Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

Riggs Gelb also noted that no other U.S. Governor has abdicated his or her water quality protection responsibilities to an elected official.

"Why does Governor Branstad want to do this? Where is the explanation or study or data that demonstrates the efficiencies? I think the public would like to have the answers to these questions," said Riggs Gelb.

Rules previous promulgated under the DNR programs being transferred would have to be reviewed and possibly rescinded and their rule making processes begun again by IDALS--processes that could take years and cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additional staff would have to be added to IDALS as they do not currently have the expertise on staff to conduct the programs.

Bill numbers are currently being assigned to these study bills, which passed out of Senate and House Committees last week. Sign up to receive Action Alerts on this and other bills at the Council's Action Alert center where we make it easy for you to contact your elected officials.


Proposed Legislation Fast Tracks New Nuclear in Iowa

The Iowa House and Senate are moving quickly on legislation to promote new nuclear power in Iowa. Identical bill language has been introduced in the House (HSB 124) and Senate (SSB 1144). The legislation would require MidAmerican Energy to submit an application to build a new nuclear reactor and would provide extensive special treatment for nuclear power, including the following partial list:
  • Allows MidAmerican to raise rates to pay for the plant during the application and construction process;
  • Exempts nuclear power from the "reasonable alternative" planning and review process that applies to all other forms of electrical generation;
  • Allows MidAmerican to keep all the money it gets from increased rates, even if the company never builds the plant;
  • Constrains how the regulators at the Iowa Utilities Board, and the courts, can review MidAmerican's proposed nuclear plant.
One of the concerns about this legislation is that it creates such favorable policy for new nuclear power that it will disadvantage clean energy, including wind, solar, and energy efficiency. Iowa has made great progress realizing the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy in recent years, but there remains great untapped potential, if we can stay focused and advance the right mix of energy policy.

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