January 2022 Newsletter

Throughout the year, I expect we will be hearing numerous discussions and advertisements from politcal candidates about their vision for the future.  I hope that vision is one of clean water, healthy soil, effective climate change solutions, and parks and natural areas that protect wildlife and native plants plus provide outdoor recreation for all of us.  These and more are the things that Sierra Club works on.


May you have a great year in 2022.
Pam Mackey Taylor, Chapter Director and Newsletter Editor

What you can do to help the environment

  1. Tell your legislators "No eminent domain for hazardous liquid pipelines"
  2. Ask your legislators to keep the bottle deposit law working for all Iowans
  3. Donate to the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club so that we can continue this work in 2022


In this issue of the Iowa Sierran

Carbon Dioxide Pipelines

Water Quality

Coal-fired power plants

Other News



  • To see the archive of previous Iowa Chapter newsletters


Update on CO2 pipelines

Tell your legislators, "No eminent domain for hazardous liquid pipelines"

Contact both your state representative and your state senator and ask that they support legislation to prohibit the use of eminent domain for hazardous liquid pipelines, such as the carbon dioxide pipelines graphicbeing proposed across the state.  These pipelines are developed and owned by private companies and they do not have a public use or public benefit so they should not be allowed the right of eminent domain under any circumstances.

To find your legislators, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

To look up your house member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house

To look up your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate

One of the many reasons we oppose the carbon dioxide pipelines proposed to run through Iowa is that the law allows the use of eminent domain to force landowners to give up their land for the pipelines.  In 2006 the Iowa legislature almost unanimously in both houses, passed a law prohibiting the use of eminent domain on agricultural land for private development purposes.  But the law made an exception for projects approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, apparently on the theory that the Utilities Board would approve the project only if it served a public purpose.

We know, however, from past experience, that that theory is not justified.  The Utilities Board will approve a permit without any reference to the service to be provided by the pipeline -- so eminent domain will be imposed on landowners even though there is no benefit to the public.  That is why we are asking the Iowa legislators to support legislation to prohibit the use of eminent domain for hazardous liquid pipelines.


Boards of Supervisors tell Utilities Board "No eminent domain"

Boards of Supervisors from counties across that state are writing letters to the Iowa Utilities Board objecting to the pipeline project and asking the Board to deny the use of eminent domain for the pipeline projects. Below is a list of the counties and a link to what they have filed:photo

  • Shelby - Summit, filed January 21, 2022
  • Pocahontas - Navigator, filed January 10, 2022
  • Lyon - Summit, filed January 14, 2022
  • Crawford - Summit, filed January 14, 2022
  • Linn - Summit and Navigator, filed January 13, 2022
  • Woodbury - Summit and Navigator, filed January 11, 2022
  • Plymouth - Summit and Navigator, filed January 7, 2022
  • Emmet - Summit and Navigator, filed January 7, 2022
  • O’Brien - Summit, filed December 27, and Navigator, filed December 21, 2021
  • Palo Alto - Summit and Navigator, filed December 21, 2021
  • Kossuth - Summit and Navigator - filed December 8, 2021
  • Hancock - Summit, filed December 27, 2021
  • Wright - Summit, filed November 19, 2021, see page 11
  • Story - Summit and Navigator, filed December 14, 2021
  • Iowa - Summit and Navigator, filed December 7, 2021
  • Dickinson - Summit and Navigator, filed December 28, 2021
  • Franklin - Summit and Navigator, filed January 7, 2022
  • Osceola - Navigator, filed January 10, 2022

And now a 3rd pipeline

Over the past several months the Iowa Chapter has been organizing opposition to two proposed carbon dioxide pipelines – Summit Carbon Solutions’ Midwest Carbon Express and Navigator Heartland Greenway.  Now we have learned that there is a third carbon dioxide pipeline.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is working with Wolf Carbon Solutions, a Canadian company, to construct a pipeline from the ADM plant in Cedar Rapids to the ADM plant in Clinton and then to an underground storage site in Decatur, Illinois.  We have no firm details on this project yet, but we will monitor it.

See our webpage dedicated to the carbon dioxide pipelines.


Test results for PFAS in Iowa's drinking water

Environmentalists have become increasingly concerned about a class of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often abbreviated to PFAS. There are thousands of compounds, estimated over 5000, in the PFAS class.  PFAS persists in the environment and does not break down.  These substances are difficult to dispose of.  That is why they are called “forever chemicals”.   

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is testing public drinking water sources and finished water to determining if there is PFAS contamination.  DNR has begun reporting PFAS testing results on their webpage.  Although a few cities have PFAS in their water supplies (Rock Valley, Ames, West Des Moines, Sioux City), the levels are below levels harmful to human health.  The DNR is updating their webpage as testing is completed.

The DNR has an action plan for testing drinking water sources across the state. [1]  The testing began in October, 2021, focusing on 59 cities, 2 businesses, and 3 rural water systems. [2]  The DNR is testing all surface water supplies and systems that rely on shallow alluvial wells. [3]  They are testing raw water before it is treated and finished water (which is treated water) for 25 different PFAS compounds. [4]

In November of 2021, we carried an article PFAS – toxic “forever chemicals”

See our flyer on PFAS

See our presentation "PFAS - "forever chemicals" are a serious environmental concern"


[1] “PFAS Action Plan”, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, January 23, 2020; see the DNR PFAS website at www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/PFAS

[2] For a list of the cities and rural water systems being tested, see Jared Strong, “Drinking water for 59+ cities to be tested for ‘forever chemicals’”, Iowa Capital Dispatch, October 21, 2021

[3] Tom Cullen, “’Forever’ chemicals widespread in Northwest Iowa”, The Storm Lake Times, October 29, 2021

[4] Kate Payne, “Iowa DNR is testing more than 50 public water systems for ‘forever chemicals’ but no plans for private wells”, IPR News, Iowa Public Radio, March 22, 2021

EPA Announces Enforcement of Coal Ash Pond Clean-up

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it will require utilities in several Midwestern states to clean up their coal ash waste, including the site in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Coal ash clean-up rules have been in place, but have not been enforced -- until now.

Coal ash is toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants. For decades, coal ash has been dumped into giant pits or ponds, where toxic chemicals have leaked into the water, contaminated soil, and poisoned air. Coal ash continues to be a serious health and safety hazard even after a coal plant is decommissioned unless the waste left behind is removed and safely disposed of.  Coal ash waste is filled with some of the deadliest known toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium. These toxics raise the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to coal ash exposure and exposure can inflict permanent brain damage on children. More than 1.5 million children live near coal ash storage sites.  Furthermore, 70 percent of all coal ash impoundments disproportionately impact low-income communities. Over 1,400 coal ash waste dumps are spread across the country, and in at least 200 cases, the toxic waste is known to have contaminated water sources.

Safeguards were put in place by the Obama administration–including a requirement that ash ponds stop receiving waste and be closed, but went ignored by the Trump administration, while the harmful effects of coal-ash waste leakages continued to harm communities across the country. A number of utilities asked the Trump administration to allow them to continue sending toxic waste to their ash ponds for years to come, but the Biden EPA has said “no.”

In response, Jonathan Levenshus, Director of Federal Campaigns for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, released the following statement, “President Biden’s EPA is demonstrating a recommitment to doing what it was established to do: protect our communities from toxic pollution, especially the ones most impacted by dirty coal plant waste. For years utilities neglected basic safeguards endangering families and communities across the country. From Puerto Rico to Tennessee, North Carolina to Illinois and beyond, grassroots advocates have been pushing the EPA, states and utilities to clean up coal ash dump sites. Today’s announcement requiring some utilities to follow the law and stop dumping toxic waste into our communities, once and for all, is a strong step in the right direction to protect our health and safety.”

Laurie Williams, senior attorney for Sierra Club, said, "For too long, MidAmerican has been allowing toxic coal waste to leak into Iowa's waters. Ottumwa is a dirty, uneconomic coal plant that is costing Iowans too much to operate -- and, as EPA has now confirmed, it's at the expense of people’s health. Iowans deserve better. MidAmerican needs to clean up its act and retire this polluting plant, and all of its Iowa coal plants, now."

Katie Rock, campaign representative for Iowa Beyond Coal, “From the details EPA provided on this denial and the economic reality of what it takes to run the plant, the case is clear for an Ottumwa early retirement. The Ottumwa plant pollutes our air, hastens climate change, and is spreading a plume of toxic pollution into our groundwater. MidAm needs to act now to protect public health and customer pocketbooks by retiring Ottumwa and cleaning up its coal ash mess, and making a plan to retire the rest of its coal fleet.”

Analysis filed in December with the Iowa Utilities Board shows that MidAmerican Energy could save Iowans nearly $1.2 billion by retiring all of its coal plants -- including Ottumwa -- by 2030. The analysis, independently conducted by Synapse Energy, concluded that replacing the coal plants with renewable resources, such as wind, solar, and battery storage, was the most cost-effective option while ensuring reliable service to customers. Under a scenario with high gas prices and a carbon tax, the savings grow to $5 billion.  The economic analysis found that Ottumwa should be retired no later than 12/31/2024.


Ask legislators to keep the bottle deposit law working for all Iowans

Since its inception in 1978, Iowans have benefitted from the bottle deposit law.  We are all familiar with paying a nickel deposit on plastic, glass, and metal pop and alcohol containers which is returned to us when we bring the empty bottles back to the store.graphic

Tell your legislators that you want to keep the bottle deposit law working for all Iowans by increasing the redemption fee to 2 cents, by expanding the law to include juice and water containers, and keeping empty container redemption in the grocery stores and convenience stores.  The distance to redemption centers should remain at 10-minutes, so that all Iowans have a convenient location to return their empty containers. 

The Bottle Deposit Law is Popular.  In fact, Iowans support expanding the bottle deposit law to include other beverage containers.  The bottle deposit law diverts containers from the landfill and into recycled products.  And the recycled bottles and cans provide a clean well-sorted valuable product.  Further by encouraging recycling, less litter is strewn across the state.   The bottle deposit law even provides spending money to those who collect discarded bottles and cans.  The bottle deposit law provides jobs to Iowans who are involved in the recovery process.  Iowa’s bottle deposit law has been a success.

To find your legislators, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

To look up your house member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house

To look up your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate

Iowa Chapter Executive Committee Changes

The Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is overseen by a volunteer board.  EJ Gallagher, from Waterloo, has stepped into the role of Iowa Chapter Chair.

The Chapter welcomed four new executive committee members – Valerie Vetter from Grinnell, Tom Reardon from Council Bluffs, Kathy Getting from Williams, and David Hoferer from Sioux City.  Welcome aboard!

Leaving the board are Carolyn Raffensperger from Ames, Fred Kirshenmann from Ames, and Linda Goff of Johnston.  We thank them for their service, knowledge, and leadership.

Join us for interesting and informative webinars

Lunch and Learns

Every Friday at noon, we do a Lunch and Learn livestream.  See us on Facebook at "Sierra Club Iowa Chapter".  These will be recorded so you can watch them anytime.  Topics will be selected based on what is happening during the week and will be announced the day before the livestream.  During the legislative session, we cover issues coming before the Iowa legislature.

In case you missed our past webinars and lunch and learn sessions, you can still see them

Volunteer for the Iowa Chapter

Almost everything we do is done by volunteers like you.  If you would like to volunteer for the Iowa Chapter, please let us know by sending an E-mail to Iowa.chapter@sierraclub.org.  Or sign up by using the online form.  There are many opportunities for you to make a difference:

  • making phone calls

  • developing graphics for banners and flyersphoto

  • working on legislative issues

  • working on elections

  • fundraising

  • organizing events

  • joining an issue committee

If you would like to join a committee on the Peoples Budget, sign up here please fill out our People's Budget Volunteer Form so we can build our organizing team for this project.  A large number of Sierra Club issues require some involvement with Iowa's state budget. Budgets reflect theories of government. Iowa’s political conversation rarely moves beyond the notion that government’s primary responsibility is to grow the economy. Hence we give corporations tax breaks, but slash funding for health care, environmental protections and public interest research at our three state universities.  We hold a different view of government and that is government is the trustee of all the things we share - public roads and bridges, water, wildlife, air, public universities, state parks, education and public health.  Therefore, protecting, enhancing and restoring our shared public wealth is the central responsibility of government. We must tie the budget to our priorities. 

If you would like to join our legislative action team, sign up here.  Keep on top of what is happening at the Iowa legislature.  Be alerted when you should contact your legislators about pending legislation.

If you would like to join the team on a public interest research agenda, send an e-mail to iowa.chapter@sierraclub.orgThe Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is forming a team to design a public interest research agenda, determine needed policies, and develop a strategy to implement the public research agenda.  This project will be a year-long study and design group. We are especially looking for scientists who are working in climate, public health, sustainable agriculture, and related fields.


Contribute to the Iowa Chapter

Sierra Club - the best bet for achieving bold solutions to Iowa’s environmental problems

Sierra Club is Iowa’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization.  Not only that, we are the best bet in the state for achieving bold solutions to Iowa’s environmental problems.

We work in the courts, before Iowa’s public agencies, and in the halls of the legislature.  The Iowa Chapter's effort to protect the environment takes financial support.  The Chapter receives very little financial support from the national Sierra Club.  Can we count on you for a donation to ensure even more victories?  Your contribution will be put to work here in Iowa on issues that affect every day Iowans – water quality, clean air, protection of Iowa's soil, parks and natural areas, and a strong democracy.  The Iowa Chapter is relentless in fighting back bad legislation that affects every one of us. photo

Your non-deductible contributions make it possible for us to fight bad legislation and to promote good legislation.  We appreciate your past and on-going support of these efforts.  You can make a non-deductible donation with a credit card.   A non-deductible donation supports the Chapter's effective, citizen-based advocacy and lobbying programs.  If you prefer, a non-deductible check can be written to the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and mailed to:

Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter
PO Box 1058
Marion, IA 52302

You can also make a tax-deductible donation with a credit card.  Tax-deductible activities are limited to public interest education, research and legal actions.  A deductible check can be written to the Sierra Club Foundation with “Iowa Chapter” written in the memo line.

Thank you for your support.

Donate your used vehiclegraphic

As the Sierra Club Foundation's Iowa Chapter continues to raise charitable funds to support its work in Iowa, won’t you consider participating in our vehicle donation program?  Our partners over at CARS have made the process of donating your unused or unneeded car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV easy, efficient and secure.  They’ll take care of everything from picking up your vehicle to sending you a tax receipt for your generous gift.  To learn more about The Sierra Club Foundation's Iowa Chapter vehicle donation program, please call 844-674-3772.  Or visit our webpage to get started today!

Sierra Club Foundation promotes climate solutions, conservation, and movement building through a powerful combination of strategic philanthropy and grassroots advocacy. The Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of Sierra Club’s charitable environmental programs.

For more information 

Planned giving . . . naming the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter in your will 


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