Smooth sailing so far for planned Iowa-Illinois underground power line

A high-voltage underground transmission line proposed to cross Iowa and Illinois is moving ahead without the landowner opposition that has dogged overhead transmission lines in the region. The SOO Green HVDC Link, which would span 349 miles from Mason City, Iowa, to a connection with the PJM grid at Yorkville, Illinois, has encountered no major objections at the four public meetings that have been held in Iowa and Illinois, according to project spokeswoman Sarah Lukan. She said the developer knows of no organized opposition to the project. The project is a fundamentally different approach to moving electricity over long distances, never before tried in this country. The German manufacturing conglomerate Siemens developed the technology and is using it to move wind power from the North Sea to southern Germany.

Jury orders Monsanto, BASF to pay peach farmer $250 million in punitive damages

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – A federal jury determined that German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF will have to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, for damage caused by their dicamba-related products. The verdict comes at the end of a three-week trial of a case where Bader Farms alleges it is going out of business because of damage incurred by the companies’ dicamba herbicides moving off of neighboring fields and harming their 1,000 acres of peach orchards. 

On Friday, the jury ruled that both Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, and BASF acted negligently and Bader Farms should receive $15 million in actual damages for future losses incurred because of the loss of their orchard. 

Bader Farms will receive a total of $265 million. BASF and Bayer will have to sort out what portion of the damages each company pays. 

Bader Farms is among thousands of farms, comprising millions of acres of crops, that have alleged dicamba damage since 2015. “It sends a strong message,” said Bev Randles, an attorney for Bader Farms. “The Baders’ were doing this, not just because of themselves or for themselves, but they felt like it was necessary because of what it means to farmers everywhere.

Iowa bill would give apartment-seekers more information on energy bills

Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would require owners of large rental buildings to disclose typical utility costs to apartment-seekers. The legislation has momentum in large part due to a Des Moines-area property manager who has been a champion for energy efficiency in his buildings. “Rental housing is the low-hanging fruit” of energy efficiency, said Keith Denner, president of Professional Property Management. The problem is that property owners often aren’t rewarded for those investments. Residents are typically the ones who realize the cost savings, and they rarely have the information to factor utility bills into rental decisions.

Toll continues to mount for pedestrians and bicyclists, the victims in one in five traffic deaths

Policymakers have eagerly promoted walking and bicycle riding as a way to get healthy exercise while reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. But those activities are becoming increasingly dangerous in America. More than 6,200 pedestrians were killed by traffic collisions in 2018, the last year for which federal statistics are available, continuing the rising trend of recent years. That’s the highest it’s been since 1990, and a 53 percent increase since 2009. Up until then, the number of pedestrian deaths had been steadily falling.

Artificial turf

Fields of Waste: Artificial turf, touted as recycling fix for millions of scrap tires, becomes mounting disposal mess

Nearly three decades ago, the federal government issued a somber warning. America’s scrap tires had to go somewhere without gobbling up landfill space. Billions of cast-off tires already had accumulated in ugly stockpiles and millions more were  “scattered in ravines, deserts, woods, and empty lots,” sparking toxic fires that burned for months, the Environmental Protection Agency declared in a 1991 report. “As costs or difficulties of legal disposal increase, illegal dumping may increase,” the agency said. But there was hope of a solution, and the EPA was all in.