Photo by Amy Mayer

In a packed-to-capacity community room in Boone, the three-member Iowa Utility Board heard testimony today over the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, which would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, across Iowa, to Illinois.

Before testimony got underway, opponents of the pipeline staged a protest outside the community building on the Boone County Fairgrounds.

There was a time when it was a rare treat to spot a white-tailed deer in Iowa.  That treat is no longer rare.  Today, it's our monthly Wildlife Day on Talk of Iowa, with wildlife biologist Dr. Jim Pease of Ames.  Jim tells us about the history of deer in the Hawkeye State, their place in the environment and our complicated relationship with them.

Wikimedia Commons

Energy company Dakota Access wants to build a pipeline across Iowa to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   The company has initiated eminent domain proceedings against Iowa State University.  

But university officials say they’re willing to negotiate voluntary easements for the ISU property the pipeline would cross. 

Vice-President Warren Madden says the university will resist condemnation, but if the Iowa Utilities Board approves the project, then ISU is ready to negotiate terms.    

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

To grow corn for ethanol, farmers have been plowing up new land and fertilizing big crops. Some research says that means corn-based ethanol can have a larger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says he will not intervene in the controversial Bakken Pipeline project which is under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.  

And he is downplaying landowners concerns.    

Dakota Access wants to crisscross the state with a pipeline to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   

Some landowners have not granted permission.    But Branstad argues the company won’t be taking their land.

Penguin Random House

Banker, lecturer and co-author of the new book "A Path Appears; Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," Sheryl WuDunn, was invited to Des Moines to share her ideas from the front lines of social progress with participants in the "Borlaug Dialogue" of the World Food Prize.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representative of Iowa industries which emit more than 100 tons of material into the atmosphere each year were at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Bureau today.

They’re weighing in on plans to raise their fees to better enforce the Federal  Clean Air Act. 

The DNR proposes a new $24,000 application fee for operating permits.   Also companies would pay more each year per ton of emissions.   

Bureau  Chief Catherine Fitzsimmons says with the new money, the DNR can hire more staff.  

USDA photo by Darin Leach / U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Earth has been through many changes. We can see the evidence when we study the geological record, but looking ahead is harder.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores the science of predicting climate change.  What do we know about the future of our planet, and how can we prepare for what is to come?

Joyce Russell/IPR

By a vote of seven to two, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission Tuesday sided with developers over environmentalists and homeowners when it comes to putting back topsoil after new homes and businesses go up.     

The new rules will no longer require at least four inches of topsoil.     

Federal rules require restoration of topsoil to prevent stormwater runoff, but developers say Iowa’s standard is too strict.      

courtesy of Bill McKibben

Rapidly melting sea ice, crippling drought, violent storms--author and environmental activist Bill McKibben has been predicting these events for decades.  But now, he says, "We need to get serious about taking care of ourselves."  IPR's Charity Nebbe speaks with McKibben about what it will take to convince humanity to take action on climate change.  McKibben delivered the commencement address at Grinnell College on May 18.

Dan Farber / flickr

Former Vice President Al Gore is in Cedar Rapids this week as part of his Climate Reality Project, a tour meant to teach people how to “take on the climate crisis." Participants in the three day session are encouraged to give press interviews, communicate with government officials, and organize others in the effort against pollution.

Gore says he believes this year is a turning point in government action on climate change, and he believes the environment will be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Photo by John Pemble

Having served from 1959-1995, 95-year-old Neal Smith is the longest serving Iowan in the United States House of Representatives.

Sarah Boden/Iowa Public Radio

Three potential Republican contenders for the White House spoke at the "Road to 2016: Informing the Energy Debate" today at the World Food Prize building in Des Moines. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania all say that regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hinders U.S. economic growth.

Kenneth Mertes

Many scientists believe that Earth is in the midst of a sixth great extinction. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, threats to biodiversity in the Midwest.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books is a rite of passage for millions of children. 

Chris Tomlinson / Geograph

Ebola and algae scares hit in Western Africa and Toledo respectively this week. The threats may feel far away, but they hit home closer than you think.

On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Anne Pham, in charge compliance and enforcement of the drinking water program at the Department of Natural Resources. She explains what made the water in Toledo undrinkable and how we can protect Iowa water.

Courtesy of Emily Robbins

Emily Robbins is a city girl now.

Well, I’m using that term as a cliché. Robbins, 27, lives in Kansas City and works as an engineer at a large firm. She is part of a profession that is made up of just 14 percent women.

Her choice of professions makes sense, though, when you know that she started out as her father’s “boy.”

Katherine Perkins / IPR

The Clean Air Act was most recently amended in 1990, with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Is that kind of sweeping environmental policy possible today? 

The True Cost of Energy

Jul 28, 2014
Kwerdenker / Wikimedia Commons

"Cheap energy isn't cheap."

keeva999 / flickr

The EPA sets regulations for 6 sources of air pollution, but there are hundreds of pollutants known to the EPA that go unregulated.

David Wade Couch

Today we continue our summer series on the environment by taking a look at urban development – what we’re doing right and wrong.

Petrarchan47 / Wikimedia Commons

A beloved Iowa eagle was found dead earlier this week. Indy, as his fans called him, a young male eaglet whose hatching was witnessed by thousands online earlier this spring was electrocuted by a power pole on Tuesday. The bird had a large following in the state and across the country; more than 500 people have posted condolences on the Raptor Resource Project’s Facebook page. Host Ben Kieffer speaks with their executive director, Bob Anderson, about what happened to the bird and what can be done to protect these eagles in the future.


Reduce, reuse, recycle. That’s been the mantra among the environmentally conscious for the last 25 years. This hour – an in-depth exploration of recycling in Iowa.

Clare Roth

Recycling can be a tricky process - whether you leave materials curbside or deposit them at a drop-site, it's often hard to know exactly what can or can't be recycled.

On this Talk of Iowa "short," Joe Hummel of City Carton and Theresa Kurtz of the Iowa Recycling Association share how recycling really works, answer common questions, and alleviate recycling myths.

DO -

Clean out your glass and plastic bottles as much as you can.

Officials with the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency  released to the general public the routes rail lines take to haul crude oil through the state from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.    The rail lines are complying with a new federal mandate to report shipments of more than a million gallons.     

Melanie Hoffert / melaniehoffert.com

Melanie Hoffert grew up on a farm in North Dakota.  Like so many others, she left.  But now she feels torn between the land and people she loves and the freedom to live an authentic life.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Hoffert about her memoir Prairie Silence: A Rural Ex-Patriot's Journey to Reconcile, Home, Love and Faith.  In that book, she describes the month she returned to her family farm to help her father and brother during harvest.  They also discuss what it was like to grow up as a gay woman in rural North Dakota.

Adam Burke

For decades, U.S. climate change policy has amounted to, "Do as I say, not as I do." However, this week President Obama announced its boldest step yet to reduce carbon emissions. The President wants to reduce carbon emission from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.

Today on River to River, what these guidelines mean for Iowa.

Mary Thompson Riney

Despite news reports that highlight danger, the world is actually a much safer place for children than it once was.  Accidental death rates for children were much higher in the early 19th and 20th centuries.  And yet, children who were once encouraged to go outside and play, are now highly supervised in organized sports and spend more time watching television than playing outdoors.  On this Earth Day, Host Charity Nebbe talks with historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg about her new book The Nature of Childhood: An Enivornmental History of Growing Up in America since 1865."  In it, Kehrbe

Democrats in the Iowa Senate  got the ball rolling on a bill that’s a dream come true for  environmentalists  and natural resource advocates.   The bill raises the state  sales tax for a natural resources trust fund that voters approved by constitutional amendment two years ago.  Backers added a tax cut​  to the bill to soften the blow.    

Unlocking Prairie Secrets from a Sod House

Apr 15, 2014
Jackie Sojico/for Harvest Public Media


Ecologists in Nebraska are trying to find out what the Great Plains looked like when homesteaders settled there in the 19th century. To do that, they’re working with a team of archaeologists and historians dissecting a sod house, a house built out of bricks cut from dirt.

Larry Estes has had a sod house in his backyard in Gates, Neb., for as long as he can remember. He never really thought anything about it until a year ago when a repairman asked him about it.