Renewable Energy and Water Quality Highlighted as Iowa Legislative Session Gavels In

posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Last week marked the beginning of the 2017 Session. Legislative Leadership and Governor Branstad spoke with pride about Iowa’s standing as a good place to live, work and raise a family. Both parties also outlined their visions for Iowa’s future and the policies they believe will move Iowa forward. The Iowa Environmental Council will be working with these leaders to emphasize that a safe, healthy environment and sustainable future for Iowa is part of any vision of progress.


In his Condition of the State address, Gov. Branstad spoke of the many benefits renewable energy has brought to Iowa. He specifically praised the collaborative efforts made by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to develop the Iowa Energy Plan.  IEC Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer was appointed to help develop the Plan; and IEC is pleased that the final recommendations support clean energy, focusing on its role in rural economic development and job creation. Although no specific legislation has been introduced to implement the Plan’s recommendations, part of IEC’s legislative agenda is focused on extension and expansion of the solar investment tax credits - a policy highlighted as important in the Energy Plan. This is more evidence that clean energy is a bipartisan issue and as the 2017 Session kicks off, we continue to find allies on both sides of the aisle.  

The Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA) held its lobby day on this hill this week and IEC supported ISETA’s solar installers in meeting with legislators, telling their stories of developing new small businesses, hiring local people and using local contractors to drive economic development in Iowa. The installers affirmed that tax credits and supportive utility policies, such as net metering, are important to the success of their businesses. At a time when all tax credits are subject to scrutiny, it is significant to note that these incentives are working. The return on investment has been incredible with $16.2M in credits leveraging $134M in private investment over the past 5 years.   

Water and Public Health

The Governor and legislative leaders of both parties also expressed that water quality is an important issue, though it is not entirely clear whether they will take action this year. IEC was pleased that a bill to provide long-term funding through the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was introduced in the Senate this week. However, the bill does not yet have a Republican sponsor - critical to help it advance - and will require strong advocacy from Iowans to make further progress through the legislature.

All Iowans want safe drinking and recreational water. With 260 Iowa communities at risk for unsafe nitrate levels in their drinking water and a record 37 beach advisories due to toxic algae last summer, this must be the Session that the Legislature takes aggressive action to deal with water quality. The problems that exist in our drinking and recreational waters will only worsen without a new, sustainable funding source that is dedicated to alleviating them. Such a funding source that also includes specific planning, goals, timelines, and accountability for results will ensure a return on taxpayer investment and is the strong action required to protect public health. While it is encouraging to see water quality talked about by leaders in both parties, Iowans will be watching for them to take action.

Written by Nathaniel Baer, Emily Holley and Kerri Johannsen

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