Iowa

Press Release: Clean Energy Advocates Applaud MidAmerican Wind Announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 14, 2016

Contact: David Jakubiak

Clean Energy Advocates Applaud MidAmerican Wind Announcement
ELPC, Iowa Environmental Council Commend MidAmerican Energy Plan for New Wind 

DES MOINES – Two of Iowa’s leading environmental policy groups have expressed strong support for a proposal announced by MidAmerican Energy on Thursday that would add 2,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to Iowa’s energy mix. The proposed project, Wind XI, would be the single largest wind energy project in Iowa to date.

“Wind XI can put Iowa above 40 percent wind energy before 2020, and sets the state on course to reach 10,000 MW of installed wind by 2020,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director at the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC). “We applaud this strong showing of clean energy leadership, and welcome the opportunities this proposal presents to strengthen Iowa’s economy, communities and environment.”

MidAmerican will work to finalize project sites, which would be spread across the utility’s service area, while the Iowa Utilities Board considers the project filing request.

“MidAmerican’s announcement reaffirms that wind energy is affordable, reliable, and strengthens our energy independence,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “This project further cements Iowa’s position as a national renewable energy leader, and MidAmerican as a wind energy leader among utilities.”

The recent extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit was as a significant factor in MidAmerican’s timing of this project. By moving quickly to develop wind projects, MidAmerican can capture the full value of this important tax incentive. Both the Council and ELPC supported long-term extensions of the federal PTC.

“This is exactly the kind of wind energy project we hoped would be announced with the extension of the federal PTC,” said Baer.

At the end of 2015, Iowa had 6,212 MW of installed wind, which accounted for 31.3 percent of Iowa’s electricity mix – more than any other state in the country according to data released by the American Wind Energy Association. Iowa is expected to have up to 7,000 MW of wind installed before Wind XI is complete per other wind projects currently under development.

Wind XI will provide significant economic and environmental benefits. Iowa wind energy already provides between 6,000 and 7,000 direct jobs, and supports approximately 75 companies in the wind supply chain. Wind energy also provides over $17M annually in land lease payments to rural landowners, generates significant property tax revenue for counties, and attracts additional business to the state. Wind energy is also the lowest cost new source of electricity generation available in Iowa.

 

Press Release: Iowa Electric Co-op Sets Standard for Rural Solar

Contact: Katie Coleman, (312) 795-3710

Solar Shines for Rural Electric Co-Ops
Announcement Sets New Iowa Record for Solar from Rural Electric Co-ops

Iowa’s Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) and its member cooperatives announced a major investment in solar energy today, unveiling plans to build 5.5 megawatts of new solar energy at six locations across its service territory. This will be Iowa’s largest solar project from a rural electric co-op, and it represents a 20% increase in Iowa’s total solar capacity (27 MW as of 2015, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association).

CIPCO is Iowa’s largest cooperative energy provider, serving nearly 300,000 residents and about 12,000 commercial/industrial accounts in its 300-mile territory stretching diagonally across Iowa and touching Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

The announced projects will be built by Azimuth Energy LLC of St. Louis, MO.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Iowa installed a total of 6 MW of solar energy in 2015.  That means this project alone is just shy of that annual total.

“CIPCO has taken a great step forward in providing their members access to solar energy,” said Josh Mandelbaum, Staff Attorney of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Des Moines. “CIPCO was clear that this effort is just the first phase of the rural electric cooperative’s long-term plan to incorporate solar as an additional pollution-free resource within its energy portfolio.”

Brad Klein, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the CIPCO announcement sends a strong signal to rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest. “The enormous potential for solar energy in states like Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin is just now beginning to be realized, and rural electric cooperatives, which have strong relationships with their members, have an opportunity to lead the way.”

To learn more about the CIPCO announcement visit: http://www.cipco.net/content/cipco-launches-iowas-largest-utility-based-solar-project

Business Record Daily: ELPC Wins Iowa Court Case to Better Protect State’s Waterways

By Perry Beeman, Business Record

A district court decision that overturned a sewage permit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources had issued to the city of Clarion reopens a long and heated fight over the protection of Iowa’s waterways.

The result, theoretically, could mean more expensive sewage projects at factories and at municipal sewage plants, although the exact ramifications aren’t clear yet.

District Judge Michael Huppert ruled that the DNR failed to properly consider how much pollution would go into the Des Moines River watershed, and instead focused primarily on the cost of the project. The Iowa Environmental Council, which brought the case and has long sought to force the state to enforce the so-called anti-degradation standards associated with the U.S. Clean Water Act, said the ruling is the first legal case addressing the enforcement of the anti-degradation standards since the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the standards in 2014.

Broadly, the rules are intended to prevent pollution in streams from getting worse. Often, that means limiting what can be emitted from sewage plants and other “point sources” of pollution through permit requirements.

“[E]conomic efficiency involves a comparison between costs and environmental benefit, [and] no such analysis appears in the final alternative analysis at even a rudimentary level,” Huppert stated in his opinion.

The ruling reverses the DNR’s approval of the permit and requires an accounting of the environmental benefits of less-polluting designs. DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins said state lawyers are still reviewing the case to determine next steps.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center represented the Iowa Environmental Council in the case.

“This ruling confirms that consideration of environmental benefits is not optional, and they need to be considered as part of the anti-degradation process,” Environmental Law & Policy Center attorney Josh Mandelbaum said in a statement. “The court’s ruling sends a strong message to the DNR that they can’t skirt the consideration of environmental benefits simply by relying on cost.”

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Cedar Rapids Gazette: ELPC Wins Iowa Case, DNR Failed to Follow Anti-degradation Standards

By Orlan Love, The Gazette

An Iowa District Court earlier this month found the Department of Natural Resources failed to appropriately enforce the state’s clean water anti-degradation standards when it approved a wastewater treatment project that would increase pollution in the Des Moines River watershed.

The ruling is the first legal case addressing the enforcement of the anti-degradation standards — which require consideration and implementation where appropriate of alternative treatments that reduce pollution — since the Iowa Supreme Court upheld them in 2014.

That year, the north-central Iowa city of Clarion submitted to the DNR a project design to expand its wastewater treatment plant that discharges into a tributary of the Boone River, which in turn empties into the Des Moines River.

The DNR allowed Clarion to choose the least expensive option without fully considering the environmental benefits of an alternative, pollution-reducing design that Clarion’s analysis deemed practical and affordable, according to Judge Michael Huppert’s ruling, issued March 17.

The alternative design would have reduced the amounts of nitrates and phosphorus discharged into a watershed that has been plagued with elevated levels of the pollutants targeted in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which filed a petition for judicial review on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council.

The state’s nutrient reduction strategy specifically directs, in situations such as that prevailing in Clarion, that “evaluation of nutrient removal feasibility will be conducted as part of the construction permitting process through current anti-degradation rules and procedures” and that “nutrient removal will be encouraged any time construction is proposed.”

The court found that under Iowa’s anti-degradation standards, a higher-cost project design could be implemented if it would have a substantial environmental benefit. The ruling reverses DNR’s decision and requires the agency to revisit the analysis and appropriately account for environmental benefits of less polluting project designs.

Economic efficiency “involves a comparison between costs and environmental benefit, (and) no such analysis appears in the final alternative analysis,” Huppert said in his opinion.

He said Clarion’s alternatives analysis was “incomplete as measured against the anti-degradation implementation procedure, and the (DNR) erred by approving it.”

“This ruling confirms that consideration of environmental benefits is not optional, and they need to be considered as part of the anti-degradation process,” Mandelbaum said.

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Des Moines Register: Iowa Court Sides with ELPC on Implementation of Anti-degradation Standards

By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

The state of Iowa failed to adequately weigh the environmental benefits that would have come with a more expensive wastewater treatment system for a north-central community, a district court judge ruled last week.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center, representing the Iowa Environmental Council, said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources allowed Clarion to choose a wastewater treatment design based on cost alone.

“They chose the cheapest alternative, but there were other reasonable and practical options that would have reduced pollution,” said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The department didn’t consider the environmental benefits of those alternatives.”

The court found that under Iowa’s anti-degradation standards, a higher-cost project design could be implemented if it would have a substantial environmental benefit, the groups said.

Mandelbaum said Clarion’s $5 million wastewater treatment expansion would have cost about $100,000 more to build — and about $215,000 more annually to operate and maintain the plant. But the more environmentally friendly plant would have met the state’s goals on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels. The plant feeds into the Des Moines River watershed.

“Nutrient pollution is a priority (in the) state, and we assume that would be reflected in the way the state enforces its environmental laws,” Mandelbaum said.

An Iowa DNR official said the state would review the case. A city of Clarion official wasn’t available to comment Friday.

Mandelbaum said the court order requires the state and city to re-evaluate the plant’s environmental impact. The Clarion project is under construction.

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Press Release: Iowa Court Sides with Environmental Groups on Implementation of Clean Water Anti-degradation Standards

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2016

Iowa Court Sides with Environmental Groups on Implementation of Clean Water
Anti-degradation Standards
ELPC and IEC win legal challenge to protect Iowa waterways

Des Moines – An Iowa District Court late last week found the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) failed to appropriately enforce the state’s clean water anti-degradation standards when it approved a wastewater treatment project that would increase pollution in the Des Moines River Watershed. The ruling is the first legal case addressing the enforcement of the anti-degradation standards since the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the standards in 2014.

In 2014, the City of Clarion submitted a project design to expand its wastewater treatment plant to DNR. Iowa’s anti-degradation standards require pollution permittees to consider alternative treatments that reduce pollution and implement those treatments where appropriate. However, while there was an alternative design that would reduce pollution – which Clarion’s own analysis deemed both practical and affordable – it was eliminated in favor of a less-expensive design based on costs alone. Despite its responsibility to enforce Iowa’s anti-degradation standards, DNR allowed Clarion to choose the least expensive option without fully considering the environmental improvement from the alternative, pollution-reducing design.

Following DNR’s approval of the Clarion project, the Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a petition for judicial review in state District Court on the Council’s behalf.

The Court found that under Iowa’s anti-degradation standards, a higher cost project design could be implemented if it would have a substantial environmental benefit. The ruling reverses DNR’s decision and requires the agency to revisit the analysis and appropriately account for environmental benefits of less polluting project designs.

“[E]conomic efficiency involves a comparison between costs and environmental benefit, [and] no such analysis appears in the final alternative analysis at even a rudimentary level,” stated Judge Michael Huppert in his opinion.

“We are pleased that the Court protected the integrity of Iowa’s clean water anti-degradation standards,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.

“This ruling confirms that consideration of environmental benefits is not optional, and they need to be considered as part of the anti-degradation process,” explains Environmental Law & Policy Center Attorney Josh Mandelbaum. “The court’s ruling sends a strong message to DNR that they can’t skirt the consideration of environmental benefits simply by relying on cost.”

The Iowa Environmental Council has regularly filed public comments and met with DNR officials about the proper consideration of Iowa’s anti-degradation standards on an ongoing basis since 2013. These comments and concerns were disregarded, leaving no option but to seek a legal resolution.

“Iowa needed solid anti-degradation standards, and we worked hard to get strong but reasonable rules. DNR was omitting important aspects of those standards. With this new guidance from the Court, we look forward to working with DNR in the future to effectively implement the anti-degradation rules to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes, rivers and streams,” added Rosenberg.

Adopted in 2010, Iowa’s anti-degradation standards are an important part of the Clean Water Act and are designed to prevent unnecessary new or increased water pollution.

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Press Release: Wisconsin Electric Co-Op Sets Standard for Rural Solar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2016

Contact:
David Jakubiak

Solar Shines for Rural Electric Co-Ops
Announcement Nearly Doubling Wisconsin Solar Sets Roadmap for Midwest Co-Ops

Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power Cooperative and its member cooperatives announced a historic investment in solar energy on Wednesday unveiling plans to build more than 15 megawatts of new solar energy at 12 locations across Wisconsin.

The announced projects will nearly the double the amount of solar power installed in Wisconsin, which now has about 25 megawatts of installed solar. The projects will be built by solar developers SoCore Energy, based in Chicago and groSolar based in White River Junction, Vermont. Together the installations will create enough electricity for more than 2500 homes.

“Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives are now national and state leaders for solar energy,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Madison. “Dairyland was clear that this effort grew out of support for solar from their members, commitment to diversifying their generation and stabilizing costs , which are goals of cooperatives across the region.”

Brad Klein, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the Dairyland announcement sends a strong signal to rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest. “The enormous potential for solar energy in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois is just now beginning to be realized, and rural electric cooperatives, which have strong relationships with their members, have an opportunity to lead the way.”

To learn more about the Dairyland Power announcement visit:

http://www.dairynet.com/dcontent/article/SolarResourcesannouncementSoCoregroSolar.pdf

Business Record: ELPC Files Friend of the Court Brief Supporting Des Moines Utility’s Nutrient Runoff Suit

New court filings: Water Works disputes drainage districts’ legal immunity, enviro group backs utility

BY PERRY BEEMAN | Senior Staff Writer

Des Moines Water Works, in a brief filed with the Iowa Supreme Court this week, contends that it is time for the court to set aside any protection drainage districts have had against lawsuit.

“Drainage districts have historically enjoyed a broad immunity from suit, but this Court should critically examine the contours and limits of such immunity as applied here,” wrote the utility’s lawyers, a team from Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C. “When the reason for a rule ends, so should the rule.”

Water Works sued Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties over nitrate pollution from drainage districts that the counties run. The utility contends that the drainage districts, which are sending nitrate down the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water, should be regulated under the U.S. Clean Water Act. The utility also wants damage payments to offset Water Works customers’ payments to remove the nitrate before the water gets to taps.

The U.S. District Court in Sioux City asked the Iowa Supreme Court to consider several legal questions before the federal court rules on whether the drainage districts have immunity to damage claims. Lawyers for the drainage districts, a team from Belin McCormick P.C., expect to file briefs in the next two weeks. Agricultural officials have contended that the drainage districts have immunity, in part because they don’t have the power to stop the pollution from farms in the area.

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E&E Publishing: ELPC Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief In Iowa Water Utility Nitrate Case

An environmental law group has entered the fray in a contentious legal battle between an Iowa water utility and agricultural drainage districts.The Environmental Law and Policy Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief today in the Iowa Supreme Court on behalf of Des Moines Water Works, the provider of drinking water for the greater Des Moines region.

The utility sued the boards of supervisors for three rural Iowa counties and multiple drainage districts last March for discharging nitrates in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, the source of water for Des Moines Water Works’ estimated 500,000 customers.

In the brief, ELPC asked the court to limit the scope of “implied immunity” that drainage districts receive under Iowa law from the damage claims made by the utility.

DMWW’s arguments against the districts are unlike other environmental challenges, said Josh Mandelbaum, a staff attorney with ELPC.

“They have never addressed, specifically, a water pollution case like this,” Mandelbaum said.

The case was initially filed in federal court. Last month, Judge Mark Bennett of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa said he would defer to the state Supreme Court to decide on eight of the 10 claims that deal with state tort laws (Greenwire, Jan. 15).

Cases dating back to the early 20th century have allowed drainage districts immunity from nuisance claims, according to Gary Baise, an attorney specializing in agriculture for Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC in Washington, D.C.

Drainage districts are funding mechanisms that farmers use to pay for tile drainage, a network of underground pipes under fields that helps remove the excess moisture from the soil.

The Des Moines Water Works trustees claim that the districts and county boards of supervisors for Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties violate the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Constitution and state tort laws.

The trial in federal court over the Clean Water Act claims is expected to move forward in August, said Mandelbaum.

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Greenwire: ELPC Files Brief Urging EPA to Require Nutrient Standards Along Mississippi River

A coalition of environmental groups yesterday submitted their latest legal arguments in their fight against U.S. EPA’s refusal to require standards for nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin.

In a brief filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, 11 green groups say EPA should require states along the Mississippi River to adopt water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can lead to algae blooms that rob waters of dissolved oxygen and kill aquatic life.

These blooms have led to a nearly 6,500-square-mile “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“That dead zone has been growing and growing over time,” said Brad Klein, senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, one of the environmental groups suing EPA. “We’ve been really missing deadlines to try to get that under control.”

The brief is the latest move in a fight dating back to 2008 to force EPA to implement standards to stem the flow of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico. That year, groups petitioned the agency to begin adopting standards for states that refused to create their own.

Three years later, EPA declined to make a decision on the petition, saying, among other things, that it was seeking partnerships with states to create voluntary programs to address nutrient runoff, rather than writing federal regulations.

The environmental organizations sued the agency in district court in 2012. The court sided with greens. EPA appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who affirmed the lower court’s decision on the question of courts’ jurisdiction to hear the matter at all, but remanded the case to the Louisiana district court to settle a limited question on whether EPA had based response to the petition on the text of the Clean Water Act.

“We’re looking at that little narrow question that they sent back on the substance,” said Ann Alexander, legal advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program. “It’s a critically important question, but it’s a narrow question.”

EPA reasoned that it would “be impractical, inefficient, and counterproductive to devote its limited resources to the mammoth task of determining whether numeric nutrient criteria are required for multiple pollutants in numerous water bodies” in states around the country, the agency’s legal team wrote the court in November 2015.

Klein disagreed with that assessment.

“Voluntary and nonregulatory efforts alone are, we don’t feel are ever going to solve the problem,” he said. “We need actual targets and standards for what we’re going to accomplish.”

Greens are relying in part on the landmark 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the high court ruled the agency was required to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide needed to be regulated based on the requirements of the Clean Air Act, rather than bringing in considerations not pertinent to the act.

But EPA disagreed that the Massachusetts ruling required that the agency make a decision on the current case.

“EPA has broad discretion to consider resource constraints, to balance competing statutory considerations, and to otherwise determine the ‘manner, timing, content, and coordination of its regulations,'” the agency wrote in its November brief.

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