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Environment

Iowa Has A Water Problem

Iowa Row Crops

Iowa Row Crops

DES MOINES—”We have a water problem,” Mayor Frank Cownie said at the state convention of the League of Women Voters of Iowa on Saturday.

Like all municipalities, the Des Moines Water Works must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency standards for maximum contaminant level in water processed and sent into its system. Peak nitrate levels in source waters have taxed the city’s ability to meet its obligations.

The problem is nitrates in the water, however, the bigger problem for Des Moines is nitrate discharge into drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties which feed its source.

“The current denitrification technology is outdated and cannot continue to operate with rising nitrate levels and increased customer demand.” according to the Des Moines Water Works. “Continued high nitrate concentrations will require future capital investments of $76-183 million to remove the pollutant and provide safe drinking water to a growing central Iowa.”

Nitrate runoff is an unrecognized environmental cost of farm operations. The lawsuit filed in the case asserts that the drainage districts named are point sources of nitrate runoff and should be regulated as such.

There is a lot of chatter about the lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works filed to establish a cost to people who use nitrogen fertilizer that contributes to water pollution. Here is their rationale from their website:

  • Des Moines Water Works filed a complaint in Federal District Court – Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, on March 16, 2015.
  • The complaint seeks to declare the named drainage districts are “point sources,” not exempt from regulation, and are required to have a permit under federal and Iowa law.
  • The complaint states that the drainage districts have violated and continue to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and Chapter 455B, Code of Iowa, and demands the drainage districts take all necessary actions, including ceasing all discharges of nitrate that are not authorized by an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • In addition, damages are demanded to Des Moines Waters to compensate for the harm caused by the drainage districts unlawful discharge of nitrate, assess civil penalties, and award litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees to Des Moines Water Works as authorized by law.
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. Des Moines Water Works is fighting for the protection of customers’ right to safe drinking water. Through this legal process, Des Moines Water Works hopes to reduce long-term health risks and unsustainable economic costs to provide safe drinking water to our customers, via permit and regulation of drainage districts as pollutant sources.
  • Continued insistence from state leaders that the voluntary approach of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is working does not give solace to the 500,000 central Iowans who must now pay to remove pollution from their drinking water.

While this lawsuit is specific to Des Moines, there are a lot of unrecognized environmental costs in diverse business operations. Set all the partisan chatter about this issue aside and the fact remains there is a tangible cost, that someone should pay. It is a cost measured in risks to human health, environmental degradation and inadequate financial models in business.

Thanks to the Des Moines Water Works, we can begin to put a dollar figure to it.

Reducing Air Pollution Matters

WHY-WHY-NOTWe hear plenty of political chatter including the words “climate change.” This discussion among politicians isn’t about science. It’s about the power of money in politics.

The tactics of the moneyed class have been to attack the messengers who would reduce air pollution, presenting so many falsehoods about climate change it’s hard to keep up. (Here’s a list of 175 global warming and climate change myths and brief responses to them). By the sheer volume and repetition of falsehoods, people are beginning to believe there is doubt about the science of climate change. There isn’t much, if any, cause for doubt.

A lot is at stake. In Iowa more than half of our electricity is generated by burning coal, which creates a sickly brew of substances breathed in by people who live near the plants, and those down wind. These substances have names: oxides of sulfur, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, dioxins, fine particulate matter, and others.

Air pollution is directly linked to the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. A reduction in coal burning would yield an improvement in health outcomes, including a reduction in mortality from heart disease, malignant neoplasms, respiratory disease and stroke.

The latest target is, and has been for a while, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan. First proposed on June 2, 2014, the plan represents a common sense approach to cut carbon emissions from power plants, setting rules for the first time. While the political class pursues an agenda that would weaken the plan, and at worst continue to allow coal burning operations to dump an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, their actions are based on moneyed interests, not science or the benefits to people living in society.

While eyes focus on the Clean Power Plan, what is missed is it is only the first of multiple actions needed to reduce air pollution in a way to improve human health. In particular, EPA should develop strong standards that would reduce the leakage of methane from oil and gas operations.

Because the discussion is about the power of money in politics, and not about developing rational or logical approaches to solving problems that affect real people, the EPA’s efforts under the Clean Air Act are under constant attack from the supporters of the fossil fuel industry and their ilk. The plain truth is intransigent interests have a lot of money and are willing to spend it on protecting their assets.

“God’s still up there,” said U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) on Voice of Christian Youth America’s radio program Crosstalk with Vic Eliason, March 7, 2015. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Because corporate media is obsessed with conservative politics we hear more about the arrogance of environmentalists than about the influence of money in politics. This summer Pope Francis is expected to release his encyclical about the need for climate action to protect our home planet. We don’t need religious leaders to see the obfuscation of the truth that air pollution is having a deleterious effect on human health. We can and should do something about it, and it begins with developing the political will to take action.

Nov. 30 the United Nations will convene the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in hope of reaching an international agreement on climate. Each country is to create its own goals to mitigate the causes of climate change. Whether the U.S. will be able to develop meaningful goals and ratify an agreement made in Paris is an open question. If the current U.S. Senate has their way, little or no action would be approved coming from COP 21, just as the preceding Kyoto Protocol was never ratified.

Robert F. Kennedy famously said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” The scientific knowledge and technology to address the climate crisis has been emerging. Because cost-effective solutions to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels are rapidly becoming reality, it is time to use our power as an electorate to demand our elected officials take action.

It can start with a phone call or email to our U.S. Senators urging climate action. Importantly, we can challenge the myths we hear in our daily lives, and work toward reducing the influence of money in politics. There is plenty we could do, and Earth is hanging in the balance, waiting for us to act.

Letter From NCEL Re: Fast Track Authority

Even though the boat may have sailed in the US senate, there still may be time to help stop it in the House. The following press release and letter were sent by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators including Iowa State Representatives Charles Isenhart, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelly, Charles McConkey, Art Staed and State Senator William Dotzler.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators 218 D Street SE, 1st Fl., ­ Washington, DC 20003

CONTACT:
Representative Charles Isenhart:​ (563) 599­8839, charles.isenhart@legis.iowa.gov
Senator Virginia Lyons:​ (802) 828­3616, vlyons@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Denise Provost:​ (617) 872­8805, Denise.Provost@mahouse.gov

STATE LEGISLATORS FROM ACROSS NATION SIGN LETTER URGING CONGRESS
REJECT FAST TRACK TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY

Bipartisan group of 110 state legislators from 41 states oppose Fast Track bill; raise concerns about secret trade negotiations, private investor remedies that threaten progressive state environmental and energy policies

State legislators from across the country have sent a​ ​letter​ to Congressional leadership and Senate and House members urging a “no” vote on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation as voted out of committee. The letter (below) was circulated by Iowa State Representative Charles Isenhart and Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons, both of whom are members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and environmental leaders in their states and nationally. The letter was signed by 110 legislators from 41 states.

“Congress has a unique opportunity to protect our democracy, environment, and workers by rejecting fast track authority. Free trade negotiations go beyond tariffs and include policies that can threaten state environmental regulations,” said Lyons, who serves on the Vermont
Legislature’s Joint Energy Committee and is Co­Chair of the state’s Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty.

“Emerging local renewable energy and other businesses lose when large multinational organizations determine rules of trade and rules of regulation ­ all behind closed doors,” Lyons stated. “So­-called ‘fast track’ authority limits Congressional oversight over a process that lacks transparency and threatens the fabric of our democratic system of state sovereignty. ”

Rep. Charles Isenhart echoed these concerns. “Trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy and state legislators are not at the table,” he said. “While virtually every investor group is well represented among the USTR’s more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are. Yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and advanced biofuel incentives.”

Isenhart is the Ranking Member of the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and also serves on the Economic Growth Committee and Ways and Means Committee. He added, “Changes in the current Trade Promotion Authority legislation fall far short of fixing fundamental flaws in both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves, including the system of private justice that sidesteps our courts and gives foreign investors greater authority over policy than elected officials. Whatever the promises of the current administration, there are no guarantees that future administrations will follow through on the commitments of this one. In other words – as state legislators, we have no say, we can’t see, and we reap what others sow.”

Among the signers of the letter was Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, who spoke to negotiators of the Trans­Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the 9th​​ round of negotiations in New York City in April.

“As an elected official, I am particularly concerned about provisions in these agreements that subordinate our domestic legal systems to Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which betrays constitutional principles, and represents the worst kind of corporate domination,” Provost said.

The legislators’ letter raises concerns not only about the pending Trade Promotion Authority legislation but also about likely provisions in the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) with the potential not only to undermine existing state environmental laws and regulations but also to chill future state policies inconsistent with the terms of these agreements. All would be covered by the speeded­up review and approval process known as Fast Track.

Letter Re: Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Senate Democratic Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi:

As elected members of our state legislatures from across the United States, we write to urge you to reject the “Fast Track” version of trade promotion authority legislation as currently drafted and instead support a new process that is transparent, democratic, and accountable.

In July, we wrote to the Senate Finance Committee with suggested changes to the Fast Track legislation as introduced. We stated then, and reiterate now, the need for a new trade authority to provide significant and substantive opportunities for Congress to hold executive branch negotiators accountable. We remain eager to work with you to develop a process that can achieve the level of review and oversight intended by the U.S. Constitution. We believe such oversight to be absolutely necessary for modern international agreements with the breadth and reach of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP).

The lack of transparency – indeed, extreme secrecy – of the trade negotiation process, coupled with the failure of negotiators to meaningfully consult on the far-reaching impact of these agreements on state and local laws, even when binding on our states, is of grave concern to us. As state legislators, we are not at the table. Of the more than 600 cleared advisors to the U.S. Trade Representative, two state legislators have been invited to participate. Thus, we depend on Congress to create a new mechanism that provides for Congress to conduct the in-depth review and oversight these powerful international agreements require. When Congress abdicates much of its authority, as it does in the Fast Track process, our democracy suffers.

Moreover, requirements for “regulatory coherence” and “minimum standard of treatment” provisions included in these trade agreements, and the investor-state system of private justice that can be invoked by investors to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations, threatens the U.S. system of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Our federalist system reserves significant authority to state legislators to regulate to ensure a level playing field for workers and businesses and to implement meaningful human rights, labor and environmental standards – authority that is threatened by these trade pact provisions.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures included in recent and pending trade agreements, including the recently leaked TPP investment chapter, are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments directly in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Although the investor-state tribunal has no power to directly nullify U.S. federal, state, and local laws, in practice, when a country loses to an investor, it will change the offending law, or pay damages, or both. Moreover, a country need not even lose an ISDS case for the chilling effect of a case merely being threatened or filed to impact its future policy making deliberations.

Indeed, in our own experience as state legislators, we have directly experienced that chilling effect. It is not uncommon for investors and foreign governments alike to seek to chill non-discriminatory state legislative action on matters of public health, safety and welfare, with threats of legal challenges based on international trade agreements. State legislative examples we are aware of include electronic waste producer responsibility laws, regulation of water extraction, tax haven restrictions, GMO labeling, and regulation of toxics in consumer products. Current ISDS litigation includes many challenges to environmental regulation, including oversight of hydraulic fracturing and mining.

State legislators have a longstanding and clear position opposing investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements, memorialized in the policy of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “…NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a nondiscriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.” [Readopted August 2013: http://www.ncsl.org/ncsl-in-dc/task-forces/policieslabor-and-economic-development.aspx#trade ]

The undersigned state legislators strongly endorse this position, and urge you in your oversight capacity to remove any investor-state dispute settlement clause from inclusion in the TPP, TTIP or other international trade or investment agreement that may be negotiated in the future.

Many of the undersigned legislators serve on the environment and natural resources committees of our legislatures and have leadership roles advancing environmental protections in our states. We are deeply concerned about public reports of potential provisions in both the TPP and TTIP agreements that would undermine these protections, including provisions on or related to investment and energy exports. With respect to TTIP, we are troubled by reports that the European Union is seeking binding provisions that would facilitate expanded exports of both liquefied natural gas and crude oil. With respect to the TPP, we are very concerned that the U.S. Department of Energy would lose its ability to even review whether exports of natural gas are in the interest of the public, should that agreement include national treatment for trade in gas.

The trade negotiation process is deeply flawed, and it appears to be resulting in deeply flawed trade agreements, namely the TPP and TTIP. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to oversee these agreements and put a stop to overreaching provisions that usurp the legitimate, non-discriminatory exercise of legislative authority to protect the public health and welfare. The pending Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority legislation undermines this Congressional responsibility. We urge you to reject this approach and instead engage in robust, transparent and inclusive oversight of both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves.

(unable to reproduce signatures due to technical difficulties)

Monsanto Preps For TPP – By Moving Overseas?

tpp threatens food safety

Considering the way that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has set up the Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS process the only logical step for corporations who claim to be frustrated by US laws is to move their corporate headquarters out of the United States. Then they can be in a position to sue the United States to overturn laws and regulations that they feel get in their way. The corporation also gets the benefit of tax laws for corporation headquartered overseas.

This is a new corporate process called inversion. Currently the incentive for a corporation to invert itself, that is to move their corporate headquarters out of the country they primarily do business in, the United States, to a country where they have much lesser interests is to take advantage of loopholes in the US tax laws. Burger King bought itself a whole lot of bad publicity and nasty headlines when they bought Canadian doughnut maker Tim Horton’s with the express purpose of moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes.

Burger King felt they could weather the bad publicity because America has the attention span of a gnat. The move is in process and based on media coverage Burger King bet correctly. Their move is no longer covered and it is business as usual while avoiding US taxes.

Walgreen’s announced they were going to invert their structure but called off the move in the face of some blisteringly bad publicity.

Now Monsanto, like Burger King and Walgreen’s, is making an offer to buy the much smaller Swiss based agribusiness Syngenta. Should the takeover take place then Monsanto has made no bones about moving their HQ from St. Louis to Switzerland to save up to $500 million per year in taxes. They have no loyalty to the country that gave them the means to grow.

Now along with the tax savings, Monsanto will be able to take their complaints about US laws and regulations to an ISDS arbitration board. Since treaties can supersede US laws, this may put corporations in a great position to attack laws and regulations that they have claimed over the years to be detrimental. We saw a small example of that just last week when the WTO ruled that the US can no longer require country of origin labeling for meat. Plan for many more disputes like tis from TPP and its Atlantic twin, the TTIP.

By the way, this should remind folks that corporations are not people despite what 5 members of the Supreme Court ruled. There is no loyalty to the US. With TPP corporations may finally have the tool they have always wanted to control US laws to their liking.

commondreams.org discusses Monsanto’s maneuver, noting the corporate “win-win” that Monsanto will reap:

Earlier this month, Monsanto made an initial offer to purchase the Swiss-based Syngenta. The deal, if completed, would allow Monsanto to move its headquarters from outside St. Louis to Switzerland, thereby reducing U.S. corporate tax payments. According to financial analysts at the investment firm Piper Jaffray, Monsanto would gain – and U.S. taxpayers would lose – about $500 million per year in tax revenues.

Monsanto, in fact, can attribute much of its growth over the last decade to past trade deals. Most other countries around the world, including key markets in the European Union, have taken a more precautionary approach to genetically engineered crops than in the U.S. – both in approvals for agricultural production, and in requiring clear labeling for consumers. In collaboration with the U.S. Trade Representative, Monsanto and the agrichemical industry have aggressively used trade rules in bilateral agreements as well as at the World Trade Organization (successfully challenging Europe’s biotech regulatory regime) to try to strike down higher-standard public health and environmental requirements for GE foods in other countries.

There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Obama administration will go to support Monsanto and the biotech industry. Earlier this month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack accused the European Union of undermining efforts to address global hunger, because of a new EU proposal to allow its member countries greater power in regulating GE crops. Vilsack threatened that the EU’s decision raises “serious issues” about the future of TTIP, and officials in Washington have threatened another WTO challenge. The EU’s regulatory approach is troubling to Vilsack and Monsanto because their collective goal is to eliminate what they call sub-federal regulations. In the case of Europe, it is country-level regulations. In the U.S., it is state-level mandatory GMO labeling laws.

Both TPP and TTIP include intellectual property rules that protect Monsanto’s patented GE crops. They also include special corporate rights provisions, known as investor-state rules. These provisions would grant corporations legal rights to potentially challenge new laws, like state-level labeling of genetically engineered foods, that inhibit investors’ expectations.

Don’t forget, Iowa’s senators, Grassley and Ernst, are 100% behind these trade deals.

This Week On The Fallon Forum: More On Bakken Pipeline Cartel, Eminent Domain Bill SF 506

Listen live Mondays at 11 am

Click here to listen live Mondays at 11 am

 fallonforum.com

This bunch from the pipeline cartel — what I call ’em — is just a bucket of snakes and you can’t tell which head belongs to which tail.”

Dear Friends,

There’s nothing like courage to inspire principled acts of conscience. Perhaps the gutsy actions last week of two landowners fighting to stop the pipeline has inspired you to step forward, speak out, take action. I can assure you that Hughie Tweedy and Vern Johnson have further deepened my own commitment to stopping the Bakken Oil Pipeline. (Stay tuned for news about that later today.)

Hughie Tweedy, land owner

Hughie Tweedy, land owner

It took a lot of guts for Hughie Tweedy to go public about the conversations he recorded with a representative of the pipeline company. In interviews that have been published in media across the country and beyond, Hughie recounts how in exchange for his land, the rep “offered me women . . . not once, not twice, but three times.”

Hughie’s life has been taken over with an endless string of media inquiries. He’s even had to learn to use Facebook and a cell phone! Hughie poked the giant — and a poked giant is likely to poke back. News that Dakota Access offered prostitutes for access to land is really, really bad public relations for the company. Add this to all the other stories circulating about pipeline representatives lying and bullying, and more and more Iowans are realizing that Dakota Access is a company that can’t be trusted.

Or in the more blunt words of Hughie, “This bunch from the pipeline cartel — what I call ’em — is just a bucket of snakes and you can’t tell which head belongs to which tail. Their damage control will be all deniability. They’ll say, well, that’s not our contractor . . . that’s not our this, not our that.”

Another courageous landowner is Vern Johnson, a quiet guy and polite to a fault. Vern also is persistent to the point of having said “no” forty times to pipeline representatives wanting access to his land.

“I saw that most of them were from Louisiana,” said Vern, who caught surveyors placing stakes on his property. Without a hint of anger or malice, Vern “offered to go down to Louisiana and drive a steel post into their land. Well, after they thought about that a bit, they came back and said they’d just pull out all the stakes they’d put on my land.”

One of the surveyors told Vern they were going to follow an existing pipeline easement on his property. “The only problem with that,” says Vern, “is I don’t have an easement for another pipeline on my property.” He even went to the county courthouse to verify that such was the case — another example of Dakota Access not being trustworthy.

Unfortunately, the pipeline company got its way. Vern was slapped with an injunction that allowed the surveyors to force themselves onto his land. Despite his gutsy persistence, Vern lost that battle.

And we may lose other battles. But we can and will win the war. Nebraskans have stopped the Keystone Pipeline. And it was just a couple years ago that a coalition of Iowa seniors, landowners and environmentalists stopped a nuclear power plant that would have been built with millions of dollars of rate-payer money. A few years earlier, we stopped two ill-conceived coal-fired power plants. A decade ago, I worked with landowners in several counties who banded together to stop their land from being taken for recreational lakes and essentially private airports.

Over and over again, when we stand strong and stand together, people can prevail against corporate and government power. I believe that will be the case with this pipeline – but it will take commitment, sacrifice and courage. I am willing to continue to push my own comfort zone in that regard (again, stay tuned for news on that later today), and I ask each of you to ponder what more you can do as well.

And please take a moment to call or write your state senator and ask him or her to support SF 506, the eminent domain bill now eligible for debate by the full Senate. Please call or write your state representative as well. And if you are not certain who represents you at the statehouse, go to find your legislator.

Catch the Fallon Forum live on Monday from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines)   Or you can listen online.  Join the conversation by calling in at (515) 528-8122.  Podcasts available after the show. And you can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.

Thanks!

Ed Fallon

Al Gore Comes To Iowa

Al Gore Giving His Slide Show

Al Gore Giving His Slide Show

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa– Al Gore held up a T-shirt presented by a youth group from Indiana that said, “Ask me about my future.” The context can be political, even if the presenters intended the question be about the environment.

Gore joked about wearing the T-shirt in Iowa and what it might mean during the run up to the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. During the 28th training of climate activists for The Climate Reality Project, he made clear he was a “recovering politician” and had no plans to run for president again.

Why did Gore pick Cedar Rapids for his first North American training since 2013? Five reasons.

It is partly about influencing the presidential selection process related to Iowa’s first in the nation political caucuses. By training Iowa activists, he hopes to make the voices for climate action heard by candidates for president.

It’s about extreme weather events including the 2008 Iowa flooding and recovery. The conference used space that was under water during the flood and heard from Mayor Ron Corbett about what the city did to repair the damage of the flood.

It’s about bringing a focus on the impact of climate change on agricultural issues in the breadbasket of the world.

It’s about Iowa’s success in development of renewable sources of electricity, wind energy in particular, but solar as well.

It’s about advocating for world governments, including the U.S. government, to make meaningful commitments to climate action at the United Nations 21st conference of the parties in Paris, France this December.

There was a lot to discuss and Gore was generous with his time, speaking multiple times each day of the conference. The significance of its 350 attendees from around the world, 75 of whom were from Iowa, is hard to miss. The movement for meaningful governmental action to mitigate the causes of global warming and related climate change is gaining momentum worldwide.

Here are some takeaways from the conference:

The people at my table, and attendees generally, are already doing a lot to raise awareness of the need for climate action. They are possessed of a high level of energy and are really smart people devoted to taking climate action.

The price of solar electricity is plummeting and installation of photovoltaic arrays is growing exponentially. In some parts of the world solar reached grid parity, and this, coupled with other sources of renewable energy, will drive the end of the era of fossil fuels.

The Iowa Soybean Association had a seat at the table, which a few years ago would not have happened. Christopher Jones, an environmental specialist for the association, said they had begun to change their thinking about global warming during the last year. If this is borne out by their actions, it would be a tidal shift for the big agricultural organizations.

Gore added information about Iowa to his already encyclopedic knowledge of global warming and related climate change. He spoke about everything from extreme floods and droughts that have hit Iowa, solutions implemented here—particularly wind and solar electricity generation, and current political issues, including the eminent domain legislation working its way through the last days of this Iowa legislative session.

A member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby asked Gore why he hasn’t endorsed the fee and dividend scheme they propose. Gore responded he favors putting a price on carbon, there are multiple mechanisms to do so, and he hasn’t finished research to determine which one(s) to endorse.

The political will to take climate action is building worldwide. The election this week of Rachel Notley as provincial premier in Alberta, Canada, where the long ruling Progressive Conservative party was ousted by her New Democratic Party is a prime example. “During the campaign, Notley promised to withdraw provincial support for the (Keystone XL pipeline) project, raise corporate taxes and also potentially to raise royalties on a regional oil industry already reeling from the collapse in world prices,” according to the Guardian.

Finally, there is hope. The solutions to the climate crisis are working. Renewable energy is beginning to take off, gain broader acceptance, and reach toward grid parity. Almost no new coal-fired electricity generating stations are planned for North America and old ones are being shuttered. We are not there yet, but Gore’s training and inspiration made the journey easier for us, and encouraged us to tell our own story about why it is important to take climate action before it is too late.

There is no planet B.

“We couldn’t even evacuate New Orleans as hurricane Katrina approached,” Gore said.

Earth is our only home, and is hanging in the balance. It’s up to us to protect it.

Climate Reality in Iowa – Day One

WHY-WHY-NOTCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa– On the first day of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training founder Al Gore gave his slide show, an updated version of the one used in the film An Inconvenient Truth. It’s the third time I’ve seen him perform in person, and there were differences in emphasis, but the big message of day one came from the panel on renewables and policy.

“Go solar,” said Warren McKenna, president of Farmers Electric Cooperative, Kalona.

In significant ways, these two words sum up what’s needed to meet world energy needs, replace fossil fuels, and move civilization toward sustainability.

In an hour, sun shining on Earth provides enough energy to meet our collective needs for a year. Whether we realize it or not, fossil fuels represent ancient sunlight stored for millennia in the ground. According to multiple speakers yesterday, most of proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be burned if we seek to retain Earth’s livability.

What makes solar an attractive solution to the climate crisis is the cost of installation is plummeting. At the point solar electricity generation reaches grid parity it will be an easy financial argument to make that fossil fuels should stay in the ground in favor of the less expensive alternative.

Companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) already like solar, wind and other renewable energy generating capacity.

BHE accounts for six percent of U.S. wind electricity generating capacity and seven percent of solar according to Warren Buffet’s 2014 letter to shareholders.

“When BHE completes certain renewables projects that are underway, the company’s renewables portfolio will have cost $15 billion,” Buffet wrote. “In addition, we have conventional projects in the works that will also cost many billions. We relish making such commitments as long as they promise reasonable returns–and, on that front, we put a large amount of trust in future regulation.”

Solar is not without it’s problems. Natural resources must be exploited to make photo-voltaic panels, and the issue of conflict minerals continuously gets pushed aside. There are manufacturing, labor and transportation issues with solar. Problems notwithstanding, the argument for solar boils down to do we want a future, or not?

What we know is dumping 110 million tons of CO2 pollution into the atmosphere every day is not sustainable, and already we are seeing the impact of global warming and related climate change damage the lives of tens of millions of people.

There are no simple answers to solving the climate crisis. As industry demonstrates the viability of renewable energy, the only thing holding us back is a lack of political will to take unavoidable steps to mitigate the causes of global warming.

The economic argument provided by declining solar electricity generating costs will be a potent weapon in the political fight.

Climate Reality Project Comes To Iowa

the-climate-reality-project-logoCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa– More than 350 people from around the globe convene here for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps’ 28th training beginning Tuesday, May 5.

The group is kicking off its North American advocacy effort for firm and substantial governmental commitments to climate action at the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to be held in Paris, France on Dec. 11., said Mario Molina, director of the 7,500-member international group of climate activists. Additional trainings are being held this year in Florida and Toronto, Canada to jump-start the effort with 1,000 newly trained climate leaders in advance of COP-21.

They are also here because of Iowa’s first in the nation political caucuses to make sure the need for climate action is heard by the field of presidential hopefuls traversing the state.

On Monday, May 4, State Senator Rob Hogg, a speaker at the training, pointed out in an email that three presidential candidates will be visiting Cedar Rapids this week. He encouraged readers to question the candidates about climate change.

“This gives us an opportunity to tell the candidates that Iowans are concerned about climate change and perhaps even ask the candidates questions about climate change,” Hogg said.

He provided a schedule and possible questions for the candidates.

Tuesday, May 5, 4:30 p.m. – Candidate Ben Carson of Florida (formerly of Maryland and Michigan) will be speaking at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Road NE, on Tuesday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m. He will be joined by Congressman Rod Blum. This is a chance to speak with Congressman Blum as well as Carson.

Thursday, May 7, 7:30 a.m. – Candidate Carly Fiorina of California is scheduled to speak Thursday, May 7, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Blue Strawberry, 118 2nd St. SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, May 7, noon – Candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is scheduled to speak at the Pizza Ranch, 2450 Westdale Dr., in southwest Cedar Rapids, on Thursday, May 7, at noon.

Hogg suggested these questions for the three Republicans:

Did you agree with President Reagan’s decision to sign the Montreal Protocol on stratospheric ozone depletion, and if so, would you support similar international agreements to fight climate change?

Are you concerned about climate-related disasters like record flooding in Iowa, record drought in California, and sea level rise, and if so, what would you do about it?

Climate Reality Project founder and former Vice President Al Gore is expected to be present for the three days of training. Part of the training is related to his slideshow about the science and human impact of climate change, an updated version of the one used in the movie An Inconvenient Truth. He is also expected to meet with key political figures regarding the need for climate action while in Iowa.

About 75 of the training attendees are Iowans, so there is hope the need for climate action can be kept in front of politicians during the 2016 election cycle.

To learn more, visit ClimateRealityProject.org.

Calling All Pipeline Fighters For Urgent Action Tuesday

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteA note from Ed Fallon:

Dear Friends –

I spoke with State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann today on my talk show and he announced big news on the Eminent Domain Bill:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28th at 12:00 noon in Room 22 of the Iowa State Capitol, a joint House-Senate sub-committee will meet to debate and possibly vote on SSB 1276!

There are three things you can do:

1. COME!!  Sub-committee meetings provide one of the few opportunities for average Iowans to speak on and influence legislation directly. I will be there and would love to have a slew of pipeline fighters join me.

2. Share this message and the Facebook Event invite with as many people as possible.

3. Write or call sub-committee members. If you write, carbon copy your own Representative and Senator. To figure out who your Representative and Senator are, and get contact information for them, click Find Your Legislator.

Sub-committee members are:

– Senator Rob Hogg – rob.hogg@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Julian Garrett – julian.garrett@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Brian Schoenjahn – brian.schoenjahn@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3371
– Representative Bobby Kaufmann – bobby.kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Greg Heartsill – greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Mary Wolfe – mary.wolfe@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3221

My take is this: The bill needs to be simple and straightforward. All we are saying is that a private, for-profit business that does not provide a public service to Iowans should not be granted the power of eminent domain. My concern is that there is pressure from Big Oil’s friends at the Statehouse to craft a compromise that will weaken this core position.

The bottom line is this: We want the strongest possible bill to come out of sub-committee, as it becomes more difficult to strengthen it later.

ed fallonThank you! This is a pivotal moment, and I hope you can take a little time today and tomorrow morning to do what you can. And if at all possible, come to the State Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12:00 noon!

Ed Fallon

To Our Grandchild

Celebrate Earth Day Everyday!

Celebrate Earth Day Everyday!

We want to get our apology in now. We won’t be around a lot longer and it looks like the one thing we had hoped to give you when you reached adulthood was a world that was at least trying to get a grip on its problems so that humans could share the one planet we have in a way that all could survive. If things continue the direction they are going, we will have failed miserably and left your generation in the worst shape of any that inherited the earth.

For the past 35 years the greedy have ruled the planet with money and their own interests in mind. For the most part that meant that they exploited most everything they could. They exploited raw materials around the world where they sowed the seeds of hate and injustice and eventual war in pursuit of that exploitation. They exploited human labor to the very depths they could and bought off government and officials so they would look the other way when they went even lower than was legal.

They exploited the American constitution so they could essentially run the government. Laws were written such that they could exploit American workers and our environment. They used their money and power to influence elections through gerrymandering, through disenfranchising certain segments of voters and also to confuse and intimidate voters. When their candidates were elected they went about the business of changing laws to keep them in power and filling the judiciary with their lackeys so that their view would almost always win in courts.

They exploited and owned the media to its fullest extent. Finding any alternative news source after the presidency of Ronald Reagan was much like looking for Sasquatch. Rumors were that such things existed, but were seldom spotted. We have been given a steady stream of information that tells us that whatever is good for the rich is good for us. This media has led us cheering into war after war. They have led us to believe that the US committing terrorism by drones within foreign countries is good. They have created fear among citizens to the point where we armed ourselves to the teeth ready to shoot strangers at the drop of a hand. And for every drone, every weapon of war, every gun and bullet that was sold the greedy got richer and our society got poorer.

They exploited fear not only of strangers but of an unseen and unprovable entity called a god. They used this god to extract unquestioning loyalty for fear that the exploited would meet some fearful eternity. Using the fear to create a people scared of their own shadows and afraid to question whatever the greedy did.

When people were full of fear and filled with so much misinformation that reality seemed like a fantasy to those people, the greedy then went about destroying the environment that allowed human life to occur on this one lonely planet that we know of. The air became nearly impossible to breath, the water so filthy it could barely be cleaned any more. The temperatures soared and rivers and aquifers dried up in one spot while floods raged in others driving people from their land and eventually covering coastal areas. Food became scarce for many even while food resources were used to feed animals for consumption by the greedy who had money and power.

Your grandmother and I tried to work in the systems of democracy to stop what was going on. Sadly, our letters to people in power, our marching, our phone calls were easily drowned out by the money on influence of the greedy. We were frustrated, but carried on believing that what was best for all would eventually win out. Slowly we learned that a few greedy people with money and power can easily get their way through access, confusion and fear.

And so you inherit a world that is broken. A world where food and clean water are like gold was to many of us. You inherit a world where fear that has been ground into people is one of the driving forces. You inherit a world full of religious prejudice and fear. You inherit a world that is so warm it is nearly impossible to lived in. We are deeply sorry.

We believed that given choices that most people would choose what was best for the greatest number. We were very wrong. We learned that most people will follow what seems to be the crowd, even if it is an artificially produced crowd. Maybe your generation will respond to the crisis we dropped on you, but I fear forces of greed will stop any progress in your time also.

But we will not stop fighting. Mankind is worth fighting for.