Protecting Clean Water
ELPC is working with local partners to protect Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams. Our advocacy led to Iowa’s approval of an important “anti-degradation” standard, which we continue working to defend and implement. This important but often ignored part of the Clean Water Act is designed to keep “clean water clean.” Without it, industry can increase pollution without demonstrating why it’s absolutely necessary. We are also working with farmers and rural communities to open a dialogue about how to decrease agricultural runoff, which is both harmful to waterways as well as to the health and success of farms. Finally, ELPC launched a storytelling and advocacy tool, www.InIowaWater.org, to help spread the word and engage Iowans in decisionmaking on clean water issues.
Solar energy is a fast-growing economic sector, and ELPC is leading the charge to make the Midwest a solar development center. Creative advocacy for supportive policies and financing approaches is making solar work in more places, including Iowa. ELPC is intervening in targeted cases before the Iowa Utilities Board to eliminate market barriers and create the conditions necessary for solar industry growth. We are working with start-up solar businesses in Iowa to advance supportive policies for more rooftop installations. And ELPC was particularly involved with advancing Iowa’s strong “interconnection standard” — a key policy for avoiding a patchwork of barriers that come in the form of fees, delays and requirements — which was enacted by the Iowa Utilities Board in May 2010.
Increasing the efficiency of electricity and natural gas use is often the cheapest and easiest way to reduce global warming pollution and conserve natural resources. Iowa law requires Iowa utilities to develop and implement five-year “energy efficiency plans” that help their customers save energy. ELPC represented the Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club in proceedings before the Iowa Utilities Board to review and improve the utilities’ energy efficiency plans for 2009-2013. ELPC is actively engaged in the collaborative process that will result in the utilities’ 2014-2018 energy efficiency plans and will continue to push for the most effective programs that result in the most energy savings and benefits for utility customers.
ELPC and allies intend to build on a recent state legislative victory, the passage of a new state tax credit for solar energy, by working to pass a package of additional policies to eliminate barriers and reduce the upfront costs of solar power. And, we want to significantly expand the amount of distributed renewable energy in Iowa. ELPC and allies are also supporting the Iowa Renewable Energy Jobs 2020 plan, which aims to create at least 20,000 additional Iowa clean energy jobs by 2020 and save Iowans at least $1 billion each year in energy costs. As part of our efforts at the Federal level, we are working to gather support for extending the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC). Aided by the PTC, Iowa was the first state to generate almost 20% of its electricity from wind. Wind supports as many as 7,000 Iowa jobs and millions of dollars in annual land lease payments to Iowa farmers. Without the certainty of the PTC, wind developers are cancelling projects because they cannot get financing.
ELPC believes in the potential of rural America to develop and produce clean, renewable energy. Our Farm Bill – Clean Energy Development Initiative focuses on clean energy diversification and independence, rural economic development, job creation, and improved environmental quality for all Americans. In Iowa, we are especially focused on the efficient and effective implementation of the federal Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grant and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to help produce clean energy and improve energy efficiency. REAP is a diverse program that has supported all clean energy technologies and can serve every agricultural sector. In Iowa, REAP has awarded 1,597 projects worth $61.3 million in grants between 2003 and 2011.
ELPC is working to build public and legislative support for the necessary funding to create modern passenger rail that would connect Iowa with Omaha, Chicago and the Midwest. This project would create jobs, spur investment, prevent pollution and provide an alternative to increasingly expensive and inconvenient air and road travel. At ELPC’s urging, Amtrak has completed studies for service between Chicago and Iowa City via the Quad Cities, and work is ongoing to study the feasibility of an extension to Des Moines. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) have written to Amtrak in support of this proposal. While Illinois and Iowa were unsuccessful in the first round of federal high-speed rail grants for this corridor, the State of Illinois has committed state funds to bring trains as far as the Quad Cities and support is growing in Iowa.