Environment

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Little Information Exists About Hazardous Materials Traveling Across Iowa

The Cedar Rapids and Linn Metro Hazmat Task Force truck stands ready in the Cedar Rapids Fire Station on December 16, 2013.

Special IowaWatch/Investigative News Network report: The Iowa Department of Transportation does not track or permit vehicles carrying hazardous materials in Iowa. The Office of Rail Transportation has some data, but it is limited to broad categories, some of which encompass both hazardous and non-hazardous materials, making it hard to determine what is traveling through. Continue Reading →

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Fairwarning.org Report: Stunning Loss for Lead Paint Makers in California Lawsuit Includes ConAgra

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A California state court ruling against the lead paint industry broke the industry’s perfect record of defending suits by public agencies seeking to extract money for removal of flaking lead paint from older homes and apartments. Omaha-based ConAgra Grocery Products Co. is one of three defendants in the case, which resulted in a huge ruling involving cash. Continue Reading →

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American Chemistry Council Targets States, Including Iowa, In Toxic Reform Battles

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A new Center for Public Integrity report details a vigorous campaign by a chemical production industry that is in full gear to smother toxics reform bills filed in states across the country, Iowa included. Continue Reading →

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Wind Producers Seek Equal Treatment in Fight for Tax Credits

A truck hauls a wind tower blade on Interstate 80 west of Davenport, Iowa, in early June 2013.

Wind producers in Iowa say they want a level playing field when it comes to tax breaks.

They would go so far as to push for cutting tax breaks for other energy producers, like oil and gas. The current tax break wind production gets ends Dec. 31. Continue Reading →

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Inspections Reveal Problems with Iowa’s Flood-Control Levees But Maintenance Lags

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Broad federal requirements are allowing many levees to fall through the cracks in maintenance and leave the reliability of others unknown, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. Levees that are inspected generally rate low, but repairs aren't always made. Continue Reading →

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Nanotechnology: Harmful or benign? An Investigative Reporting Workshop Report

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Summary: Although questions abound about the impact of nanoparticles on the environment and the human body, such particles have ushered in breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and electronics, fueling a huge industry. Nanomaterials are now either produced or used by many of the nation’s largest businesses to make a wide range of products or processes, including toys, textiles, sunscreens, computer screens and tennis rackets. The industries say don't regulate us, but the EPA continues to study the issue. Nanotechnology is a booming industry. The manipulation of tiny, nanoscale particles has created breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture, electronics and virtually every other sector of commerce. Continue Reading →

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Large Livestock Farms Spread Across Iowa, Threatening Waterways

A cattle feedlot outside Anamosa, Iowa, on Friday, May 17.

A major environmental threat has emerged as factory farms take over more and more of the nation’s livestock production: Pollution from the waste produced by the immense crush of animals. Iowa has more of the massive livestock feeding lots, known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, than any other state and has come under fire for lax regulations.
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Environmentalists and Livestock Producers Battle over Data Collection, Other Matters

Cattle gather at the trough at an open feedlot close to Anamosa, Iowa on Friday, May 17.

Livestock industry groups applauded the Environmental Protection Agency's retreat last year from establishing an information-gathering rule. Michael Formica, of the National Pork Producers' Council, said the rule simply would have burdened farmers with pointless paperwork. “You want your farmers focused on farming and running the farm, you don’t want them worried about filling out one inane form after another,” he said. Industry leaders also expressed satisfaction that it would be more difficult for the EPA to get information without a law compelling disclosure. Ashley McDonald, deputy environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said his organization was pleased the effort would be more "labor intensive" because the data is "in a decentralized form that is much more difficult to ascertain." Continue Reading →

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New Way of Thinking About Landfill Waste Reduction Emerging in Iowa

Unseparated bags are piled in the Iowa City Landfill. (Sujin Kim/IowaWatch)

A promising new program may be the key to pushing Iowa’s landfills into action that decreases the environmental impact of their operations. The program, called Environmental Management System, or EMS, focuses on six specific ways to reduce what we dump into the ground as waste. But participation in the program, which signifies a switch from an outdated planning process that only credits landfills for diverting materials from landfills, has been slow. Only nine of Iowa’s 50 landfills have enrolled, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. That may have to change soon because landfill operators are under increasing government pressure to reduce negative environmental impacts. Continue Reading →

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Closing the Gap: Iowa’s Effort to Recycle is Hampered by a System That Favors Dumping

It’s not hard to see wood, papers, cardboard and some other recyclables mixed in the garbage at the Iowa City Landfill. (IowaWatch/Sujin Kim)

Farm belt state struggles in shift to recycling
More than half of what Iowans dump into landfills could have been recycled or composted. In some areas, that amount is as high as 75 percent, landfill operators said. An IowaWatch investigation revealed that the gap between tons dumped into the ground and tons recycled at Iowa’s top five waste agencies is widening. And unless something changes, it’s set to stay that way because of a lack of available recycling programs, the way recycling and landfill programs are funded by the state, and poor record keeping. Reo Menning, public affairs director with the Metro Waste Authority located near Mitchellville, explains bluntly: “If recycling doesn’t happen, landfills will fill up faster, and the cost for garbage will go up.”

Colors denote intensity of tonnage in fiscal year 2012. Continue Reading →

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