Environment

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An effort to repeal Iowa’s nearly 40-year old bottle deposit law this year has apparently come to an end after action in the Iowa Senate.    

A bill backed by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Iowa Beverage Association to replace the bottle law with a statewide recycling program did not clear a three-member panel.

The bill’s manager, Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), announced an alternative effort to modernize the law instead.  

“We are not repealing the bottle bill,” Feenstra said.     

Wikimedia Commons

A bill to repeal Iowa’s bottle deposit law and replace it with a statewide recycling program failed to clear a Republican-dominated three member panel in the Iowa House today.  

A separate House bill to expand the law by adding more containers is also dead for the year. But the Senate is still considering a total repeal.    

Rep. Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa) called today’s hearing even though he knew the bill to repeal the bottle deposit law did not have the support to advance.      

Community Environmental Council

In the last three decades, the Earth has lost half of its coral reefs. In 2016, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef lost nearly 30 percent of its coral. In 2017, this number rose to 50 percent.

While there are a number of different factors at play, it's increasingly clear that the warming of the world's oceans are a major contributor to this loss.

Iowa General Assembly

By a vote of 33 to 16, the Iowa Senate Wednesday night approved a bill to crack down on protesters who cause disruption to critical infrastructure in the state.

The bill is backed by Energy Transfer, developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was damaged along its Iowa route by protesters opposing the project.

The pipeline was built to carry crude oil from North Dakota diagonally across 18 Iowa counties.

The bill creates a new offense of sabotage against critical infrastructure. 

Philippe Roos

National politics have put coal in the spotlight. On this River to River segment, Ben Kieffer talks with former coal miner, Nick Mullins, about his work and the misconceptions about coal country. They also discuss the dichotomy between jobs and the environment and the political motivations of mining communities.

Mullins is the author of the blog "The Thoughtful Coal Miner." He will speak at Iowa State University at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. His talk is titled, “Coal, Climate and Environmental Backlash.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today signed her first bill into law as the state’s chief executive, approving water quality legislation while surrounded in her formal office by supporters from inside and outside the legislature.   

Senate File 512 appropriates $282 million over the next 12 years to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Iowa waterways.     

It’s designed to help the state meet the goals of its Nutrient Reduction Strategy to reduce nutrients in the water by 45 percent.

Reynolds said good work is already being done on the farm.

John Pemble/IPR

The state’s largest agriculture organization, the Iowa Farm Bureau, came in for bitter criticism in the Iowa Senate, one day after a Farm Bureau-backed water quality bill gained final passage in the Iowa House.   

Iowa is under pressure to reduce nitrates and phosphorus in waterways by 45 percent.

The bill, which awaits the governor’s signature, spends $282 million over the next 12 years, or about $27 million a year, to meet Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

But some experts put the cost of cleaning nutrients out of the water at $4 billion.

Minnesota Historical Society Press

 This program originally aired June 9, 2016.

The "Big Marsh" was a source of bounty for wildlife, native people and settlers.  When it was drained it offered up fertile soil, but what was lost?  This hour, we talk to Cheri Register, author of the new book, "The Big Marsh; the Story of a Lost Landscape" (Minnesota Historical Society Press).

Joyce Russell/IPR

For the third year in a row, the Iowa House Tuesday morning took up water quality legislation, and by noon a bill finally passed on a mostly partisan vote.   

The legislation, which is now on its way to the governor, spends millions of dollars on water quality improvement projects over the next decade.       

But the final version pitted farm groups against environmentalists and there was bitter debate.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A coalition of more than two dozen state, local, and national organizations rallied at the statehouse today against the proliferation of large hog confinement operations known as CAFOs, which they say have diminished the quality of life in the Iowa countryside.   

The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture is calling for a moratorium on new large hog operations until fewer than 100 Iowa waterways remain impaired.   

It’s one of a package of 15 bills offered by Senator David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan) to strengthen regulation of hog farms.

RecycleMe Iowa

The Iowa grocery and beverage industries are gearing up again to try to repeal Iowa’s popular bottle deposit law when lawmakers return to the capitol in January.   

They released a survey today they say shows Iowans would prefer better recycling programs.      

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Iowa Beverage Association are offering a bill that’s similar to legislation that advanced through one House committee last year.

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr, Creative Commons

When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech, he did not say "I have a problem." A growing environmental movement called #EarthOptimism is taking that idea and painting a vision for a brighter future.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Nancy Knowlton, who is chair of marine science at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian and founder of the earth optimism movement, and Connie Mutel, who is a senior science writer at the University of Iowa. 

bird flew / Flickr

Thomas Olander of Louisiana has been a shrimper and fisherman for about 40 years. He says his livelihood and way of life is dying out because of the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The guys that drag across that area, they absolutely cannot catch anything alive,” he says. “Nothing lives in it.”

 

New Society Publishers

  

Benjamin Vogt is an author and owner of Monarch Gardens LLC, a prairie garden design firm in Nebraska.  This hour, Vogt discusses his latest book, "A New Garden Ethic; Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future." (New Society Publishers)  In it he writes: "While it's our presence in the form of gardens that brings nature to our urban lives, it's the wake or echo of our beliefs that reverberates the longest."

WIKICOMMONS / Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Farmers use fertilizer because it helps crops grow. But according to a new study from Iowa State University, for some native plant species in Iowa a chemical found in fertilizer does the opposite, harming the biodiversity in Iowa’s tallgrass prairies.

Nitrogen is found in fertilizer and is hard to contain as it flows from farm fields to water and gets into the air, reaching other plants.

Image submitted by Barbara Taylor

The vaquita porpoise is the rarest marine mammal on Earth, and it is disappearing fast.

In this Talk of Iowa segment, host Charity Nebbe talks with NOAA conservation biologist Barbara Taylor.  They discuss the unique qualities of this animal, its habitat in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California, and they talk through the plan next month to try to retrieve the last of of the vaquitas and save them from extinction.  

"When I started doing this work over 20 years ago, we had about 600 in the population, and now there are less than 30 left on planet Earth."

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

An attempt to toughen environmental standards for confined animal feeding operations has failed as the state’s Environmental Protection Commission says it lacks the jurisdiction to reform the current permitting process.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the D.C.-based Food & Water Watch filed the request. They want the EPC to create stricter rules and complain the current permit process’s scoring system, known at the master matrix, offers no meaningful evaluation of environmental or community protections. 

Flickr / Takeshi Kuboki

Don’t look at the sun during Monday’s eclipse.

That’s the message from Dr. Michael Abramoff, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the University of Iowa. He warns that during every total solar eclipse, about five or 10 people permanently damage their eyes.

Alliant Energy

Alliant Energy is launching a new program for customers who want more of their electricity to come from renewable sources. 

The program called “Beyond Solar” could get underway once a new solar power plant in Dubuque goes online this fall.  

But a challenge from environmentalists may stand in the way.   

At a recent workshop at the Iowa Utilities Board, Alliant Energy made the case for “Beyond Solar.” 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Chemical runoff from Midwest farm fields is contributing to the largest so-called dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Scientists have mapped the size of the oxygen-deprived region in the Gulf since 1985. This year’s is estimated at more than 8,700 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey.

 

Flickr / Julio Mulero

Bird watchers in the Lower Loess Hills region may see a greater diversity of species in the not-so-distant future.  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is proposing a nearly 90,000-acre bird conservation area.

Bird conservation areas are created through a targeted effort on public and private lands to plant bird-friendly habitats in concentrated areas.

MrTinDC

It was not very long ago that eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons and other raptors were a rare sight in Iowa. One of the people who worked hard to bring these species back from the brink is Pat Schlarbaum. In this Talk of Iowa with Charity Nebbe, hear from Schlarbaum as he retires from a thirty-three year career with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Also joining the conversation is Bruce Ehresman who has worked with Schlarbaum on many of his projects.

Sarah Boden/IPR

More than 130 Iowa religious leaders and clergy have signed a statement calling climate change “one of the most pressing moral challenges facing our world today.”

They say carbon pollution is an environmental justice issue, because power plants have historically been located near low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and agricultural communities. They want local, state, national and international leaders to form policies and strategies that promote sustainable energy use. 

Carl Wycoff/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to spend nearly $850 million over the course of 12 years to clean Iowa’s waterways narrowly advanced in the Iowa Senate today, in spite of opposition from lawmakers of both parties.    

Iowa is under pressure from the federal government to remove nutrients from the water which are contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. But at a subcommittee hearing for the Iowa Senate’s Committee for Natural Resources and Environment, the chair downplayed the seriousness of the problem.

Ken Brown

Ken Brown, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the University of Iowa Tippie School of Business, says he took the plunge and booked a trip to the remote continent of Antarctica, because his 81-year father Bob said such a journey was on his "bucket list."  It was a magical trip, Brown told us, but he still worries about the the continent's future.

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer interviews scientist and ecologist Ari Friedlaender, who has been working in Antarctica for about 20 years. 

During the course of his more than 25 trips to the continent, he has developed a long-term ecological research program that has led to many important discoveries about whales in that polar region.

He is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and he is featured in a new National Geographic documentary titled CONTINENT 7: ANTARCTICA.

Lulu Vision / Flickr

As we head into some of the biggest shopping days of the year, have you stopped to think about how the stuff you buy impacts your pocketbook, the environment and the people who make it? Most of us don't, but a class at the University of Northern Iowa asked students to give it some thought. It's called the un-shopping challenge, and students Alli Albright and Connor Tomke took part, and host Charity Nebbe talked with them about the experience on Talk of Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A coalition of state environmental groups called the Mississippi River Collaborative is pressuring the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do more to clean up waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed.

In a report released today, the group calls upon the EPA to take concrete action to force improvements in water quality.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Farming in the fertile Midwest is tied to an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists are studying new ways to lessen the Midwest's environmental impact and improve water quality.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the so-called "dead zone," an area of sea without enough oxygen to support most marine life, to grow larger than the size of Connecticut, or roughly 6,000 square miles.  

chesapeakeclimate / Flickr

Sandra Steingraber is proud of her PhD in biology, her position as Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College and her two arrests. Not necessarily in that order.

While Steingraber, an author, biologist, and activist, has studied science in a lab for decades, she knew she had to do more to effect the change she wanted to see in the environment. So she got herself arrested. Twice.

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