January 2024 Newsletter

The legislature is back in session.  If you want to keep on top of the key issues the Sierra Club is following, check out our blog.  This should be a short session, since the per diem expense money for the legislators ends on April 16 which usually is the signal to wrap things up for the year.  We will be monitoring introduced legislation, lobbying on bills that interest us, and blogging and reporting on the issues.  The legislature is hurtling toward the first funnel on February 16, the date when many of the bills will be winnowed from further consideration.

Take care,
Pam Mackey Taylor, Chapter Director and Newsletter Editor

What you can do to help the environment

  1. Attend the Pipeline Opposition Rally & Lobby Day, Thursday, February 8, 2024, at the Iowa Capitol, 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines.  Lobbying begins at 12:30pm - Meet in Capitol Cafeteria.  Rally begins at 2:30pm - Meet in Capitol Rotunda.  Wear Red!
  2. Contact state senators about protecting the black bear
  3. Check out our blog
  4. Continue your advocacy on the carbon dioxide pipeline issues; discuss your concerns about the carbon dioxide pipelines with the Iowa legislators
  5. Join us on February 8th for a webinar on updates to transmission in the Midwest!  Contact emma.colman@sierraclub.org for more information.
  6. Donate to the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club so that we can continue our work on protecting Iowa's environment. 

In this issue of the Iowa Sierran

Legislative Updates


  • CO2 Pipeline Update

    • It’s time for Iowa’s Legislators to pass a bill to stop the carbon pipelines! 

    • Save the date for our Carbon Pipeline Opposition Lobby Days at the Iowa Capitol

    • Familiarize yourself with Iowa Legislators and lobbyists that have or will play a role in a carbon pipeline bill

    • Sign the letter to Iowa legislators to stop the carbon pipelines

    • Summit's Future is in the IUB's hands

Climate Change

Protecting the Environment


  • To see the archive of previous Iowa Chapter newsletters

CO2 Pipeline Update

It’s time for Iowa’s Legislators to pass a bill to stop the carbon pipelines!  Sierra Club members, landowners and everyday Iowans have been going up to the capitol for 2 legislative sessions and we’ve grown our power along the way. This will be our third legislative session and we want our legislators to pass a bill now!

Save the date for our Carbon Pipeline Opposition Lobby Days at the Iowa Capitol:

  • Pipeline Opposition Rally & Lobby Day, Thursday, February 8, 2024, at the Iowa Capitol, 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines

    Lobbying at 12:30pm - Meet in Capitol Cafeteria

    Rally at 2:30pm - Meet in Capitol Rotunda

    Wear Red!

  • Tuesday, March 26, 2023 - we will announce the details in our February and March newsletters.

Familiarize yourself with Iowa Legislators and lobbyists that have or will play a role in a carbon pipeline bill:

  • Click here for the list of House Representatives that voted for and against HF565, the 90% threshold bill. 

  • Click here for a list of the nine Senators who signed a resolution against eminent domain for carbon pipelines.

  • Click here to see who is on the Senate Commerce Committee.  Last year, Senator Brown, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee refused to hold any hearings on HF565, the 90% threshold bill.  It is likely our bill would go through this committee again in 2024.

  • Click here to view the House and Senate leaders.  Leaders have power to decide what bills pass and what bills die.

  • Click here to see which lobbyists were for and against HF565, the 90% threshold bill.

Sign the letter to Iowa legislators to stop the carbon pipelines: https://bit.ly/DearSenatorsRepresentatives  We are delivering these letters to the legislature during our weekly lobby days.

We had our first weekly lobby day on Tuesday.  We delivered copies of our letter to legislators to all members of the Senate and about a third of the House.  We heard about the possibility of a couple new bills addressing the carbon pipelines but they have not been introduced. Things happen fast at the capitol and we are on the lookout for bad bills.

Summit's Future is in the IUB's hands

The Summit hearing wrapped up in November, the parties have submitted their written briefs and reply briefs, and now the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) needs to review the entire docket and issue a decision - a process that is expected to take weeks, even months.  The docket is the largest docket in IUB history.  Our organizing over the past two years to protect Iowa from hazardous carbon pipelines helped build the strongest case possible against the Summit project.  When the IUB sits down to review the facts, it should be clear that Summit’s application must be denied.

Stop eminent domain and carbon pipelines

Protect Black Bears in Iowa - HF175

A bill to protect black bears passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.  The bill would place the black bear on the list of fur-bearers (bill HF175).  Once on the list, the black bear could be given a hunting season.  At first, the season would be closed since there are so few black bear in Iowa.  In the future, if the number of black bear in Iowa increase to the point where a sustainable hunting season could be supported, the Department of Natural Resources could establish a hunting season.  The Sierra Club supports this bill.  

What you can do

  1. This has been assigned to a Senate subcommittee.  Ask the subcommittee members to support HF175 protecting black bears.  Their email addresses are ken.rozenboom@legis.iowa.gov , sarah.trone.garriott@legis.iowa.gov , dan.zumbach@legis.iowa.gov
  2. You can also ask your senator to support the bill protecting black bears - HF175
To look up your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate



Black bears were abundant in Iowa at the time of settlement.  However the black bear was extirpated from Iowa by over-hunting in the mid 1800’s.   After a long absence from Iowa, the black bear has begun repopulating the state.  Black bears live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri, so it is not surprising that bears periodically make their way into Iowa. 

Northeast Iowa has habitat that is favorable to black bear.  Although there are not large populations of black bear in the state, they are found in small numbers.

The black bear currently has no protection from hunting, so any black bear found in Iowa can legally be killed.  In order to allow the black bears to continue expanding in Iowa, the black bear must be protected from hunting pressure.  Initially the black bear can be given a closed season.  Once the population expands, a sustainable hunting season can be established.

Black bears are shy and timid.  They do not attack humans to protect their territory or cubs.  Startled bears will run away and often climb a nearby tree.

Although beekeepers have expressed concerns about the black bear, the beehives can be surrounded by electric fences which will keep the bears at bay.  Afterbirth from livestock should be removed from fields and pastures.  Carcasses of deceased livestock should not be left exposed, but instead removed, buried, or incinerated.

Black bears belong in Iowa!

Explaining the taxpayer relief fund

By now, you have probably heard that the governor wants to reduce the income tax to 0.  You have probably heard about the taxpayer relief fund.  But what is happening may be a bit of a mystery.  So let's dig into it.

By law, the governor and the legislature can budget only 99% of the general funds that are collected by state government.  By law, the state government cannot go into debt in order to pay its bills.  The state must have a balanced budget.

If the receipts coming into state government fall short, there are rainy day funds to fill in the gap.  Think of this as money in a savings account that holds reserve funds.  There are actually two reserve accounts -- one called the cash reserve fund which is used to support cash flow needs that occur day-in and day-out and the second one called the Iowa economic emergency fund to be used for emergencies, such as dealing with falling revenues.  There is a third reserve fund called the taxpayer relief fund, which we will be discussing below.

For a number of years, the legislature and governor have been setting budgets that use less than 99% of the collected general fund revenues.  The difference between what has been collected and what has been budgeted has been deposited in the taxpayer relief fund.  The amount of money in this fund has been growing over the last ten years, to the point that the governor announced in September, 2023, that the balance was 2.74 billion dollars. 

What this means is that the state is collecting revenues and not spending them on services, even though the public is asking for more money to be spent on things like improving water quality, nursing home inspections, public schools, and support for public colleges and universities.  Instead this taxpayer relief fund grows year after year.

The state income tax is on a path to be reduced to a flat tax.  Every year the tax rates will be ratcheted downward so that by tax year 2028, the individual income tax will be 2.5%.  Corporate income tax rates are also being lowered.

There are calls from legislators to ratchet the income tax rates downward at a faster speed than is currently in the Iowa Code.  A bill SF552 was introduced in the 2023 legislative session, and it is still active this year, that will do just that.  In order to do it, the money in the taxpayer relief fund is going to be used to pay the state's expenses as the income rates are further decreased.  Eventually the money in the taxpayer relief fund will be hitting zero. 

We have been hearing calls by the governor saying that she wants to reduce the income tax to zero by the time her current term of office ends in 2026.  That plan would ratchet down the income tax rates faster than what is contemplated in bill SF552.  In fact, the governor stated during an interview on the Ruthless podcast, "you’ve got Republican governors that are trying to outdo each other, so that’s why I’ve got to come back and cut taxes again", according to an article by Patrick Gleason in Forbes on August 15, 2023.

Already the state revenues from income tax are starting to fall and they will continue to fall as the income tax rates continue to fall.  The administration is gambling that the sales tax will grow as people spend more on taxable goods and less on income tax and that will offset the loss of income tax. 

But what if they don't balance each other out?  At some point, if the revenues do not support the budget needs of the state, the budget will be cut, along with the services the budget provides and the staff doing the work.  Or some tax will have to be increased - perhaps the sales tax.  Iowans are currently seeing needed services going under funded or not funded at all - things could get worse, much worse.   

The governor is in the process of decimating state government and drowning it in a bathtub.  It is happening right before our eyes.


For more information on Iowa tax policy, see Common Good Iowa, at www.commongoodiowa.org

David Reynolds, "Iowa's Expenditure Limitation Process", Legislative Services Agency, November 16, 2012

Chapter 8 of the Iowa Code, the Department of Management - Budget and Financial Control Act

"Gov. Reynolds Announces Iowa Budget Surplus of $1.83B", Office of the Governor Press Release, September 27, 2023

David Reynolds, "Iowa's Expenditure Limitation Process", Legislative Services Agency, November 16, 2012

Jennifer Acton, Fiscal Note for SF552, Legislative Services Agency, April 13, 2023

Tom Barton, "Reynolds hears advocacy groups' priorities in budget hearing", Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 4, 2024

Erin Murphy, "Iowa tax revenue to flatten next year", Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 14, 2023

Erin Murphy, "Iowa Republicans eye further income tax cuts as state revenues flatten", Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 31, 2023

Tom Barton, "Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds wants to abolish state income tax by 2026", Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 10, 2023

Patrick Gleason, "Governor Kim Reynolds Wants To Make Iowa The Nation's Next No-Income-Tax-State", Forbes, August 15, 2023

Iowa capitol

Study Recommends Protections for Utility Ratepayers

In 2023 the Iowa legislature asked that the Iowa Utilities Board undertake a study of the utility ratemaking laws and procedures, with the results being recommendations for future changes.  That work was contracted to London Economics International.

The Sierra Club has reviewed the study and its recommendations, which would provide multiple protections for ratepayers.  The recommendations include

  1. Consider a maximum stay out provision for general rate cases.  This would require the utility companies to come before the board periodically to have their rates reviewed.  Utility companies have been able to avoid coming before the utilities board for extended periods of time, even though new information could inform the customer rate structures.

  2. Enact a statute that requires rate-regulated electric utilities to file an integrated resource plan (“IRP”) and gas and water utilities to file long-term supply plans.  An integrated resource plan for electric utilities is a plan that looks at future electricity needs, the means of generation, and the need for new generation.  Further, an IRP would ensure that the utility does not build more generation than its customers need and use, which would raise rates.

  3. Align necessity and advantages of advance ratemaking with the resource plan.  The IRP determines the need for the generation while the ratemaking lays out how customers will be charged to pay for the new generation.  Prior to new generation being built, the utility companies come before the utilities board for approval of how the new generation will become part of the customer bills.  This includes the utility’s return on equity, the depreciation rates, cost allocation among various classes of customers (homeowners, small businesses, large industries), cost recovery in case the project is cancelled, and other financial considerations.  This would ensure that electric consumers are provided cost-effective electricity while the utility is still able to operate profitably. 

  4. Review tracker and rider mechanisms for utility operations.  For example, charges for transmission lines automatically are added to customer electric bills.  This review would ensure that these add-on charges are not excessive and are necessary to provide reliable safe service to the customers.

  5. Initiate study on evaluating the current spending cap and alternative energy efficiency (“EE”) and demand response (“DR”) opt-out options.  Several years ago, the legislature put a hard cap on the amount of money that the electric and gas companies can spend on energy efficiency programs.  Energy efficiency and demand response programs reduce peak electric usage, which reduces the need for new power plants.  When new power plants are built, the utilities place additional costs onto customer bills to pay for the power plant.

  6. Examine the implementation of a performance-based regulation (“PBR”) framework and various components, which include multi-year rate plans, performance mechanisms (such as scorecards and performance incentive mechanisms), and earnings sharing mechanisms.  The utilities board could set goals for the utility companies to reach, with the intent of lowering consumer bills, while also giving the company financial incentives to meet the goals.  In the case of energy efficiency, this is often referred to as decoupling.

If you would like to read the study, see "Review of Current Iowa Code Provisions and Ratemaking Procedures", December 20, 2023, London Economics International.  The study was conducted by Julia Frayer, Ma. Cherrylin Trinidad, Donald Osborne-Moss, Hannah Braun, Max Lee, Luna Dou, and Jun-Soo Park.

transmission lines at sunrise

Iowa Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently released the "2022 Iowa Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report".  The report showed those emissions decreased 3.21% since 2021, with the largest decrease coming from power plants.  In summary, the changes in Iowa’s greenhouse gas emissions come from:

  • Reduced emissions from power plants, due to decreased generation of electricity from fossil fuels (14.68% decrease)
  • Decreased emissions from vehicles, due to a decrease in miles driven (5.01% decrease)
  • A decrease in emissions from residential, commercial, and industrial fuel use (.44% decrease)
  • An increase in emissions from the agriculture sector, due to decreases in enteric fermentation, manure management, and agriculture soil management (.60% increase).  This increase was driven by an increase in the number of cattle raised in Iowa, plus an increase in the amount of synthetic fertilizer and an increase in the emissions from manure management.
  • An increase in emissions from industrial processes (5.00% increase)
  • An increase in the emissions from waste (1.82% increase)
  • An increase in the emissions from natural gas transmission and distribution (.43% increase)

Iowa largest emissions come from the agriculture sector - 31% of Iowa's greenhouse gases emissions are from agriculture

Of the greenhouse gases emitted in Iowa,

  • 31% come from the agriculture sector – livestock and crop production, enteric fermentation from cattle and other ruminant animals, and manure management
  • 27% are from residential, commercial, and industrial fossil fuel use
  • 17% from power plants
  • 16% from transportation
  • 6% from industrial processes
  • 2% from waste production, such as landfills and wastewater treatment plants
  • 1% are emitted during the transmission and distribution of natural gas

In order to reduce the effects of climate change, the emissions of greenhouse gases need to decline significantly. 

The Sierra Club has been diligently working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa. 

The Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club has been working on reducing emissions from the agriculture sector, including issuing several policy documents

The Beyond Coal Campaign has been working on shuttering coal plants in Iowa, resulting in the large reductions of emissions from that sector.  

The Sierra Club is actively promoting the use of electric vehicles and the installation of more charging stations.

We will continue this work in 2024.


“2022 Iowa Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report”, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, December 28, 2023

Chicken Ridge Scenic Overlook, Clayton County, Iowa, and rolling hills and farms

Photo shows the rolling hills and farms of Clayton County, Iowa.  Photo was taken from Chicken Ridge Scenic Overlook.

Save the date - May 4, 2024, Outing to Whiterock Conservancy

The Chapter will be having an outing to Whiterock Conservancy outside of Coon Rapids, Iowa, on May 4, 2024.  We are planning three hikes.  One hike will be a shorter, easier hike along the Raccoon River.  A second hike will last a couple of hours and will be a little more strenuous, starting along the Raccoon River.  A third shorter hike will be on the trail that leads from the Visitor Center to the Garst homestead.  We will have hike leaders who can point out flowers and birds.  This will be in the prime of the song bird migration and the blooming wildflowers.

For those who want to spend more time at Whiterock, there are many activities you can do on your own - biking, hiking, camping, staying in one of the farm houses on the property, exploring the history of the Garst family, and more. 

Save the date - May 4, 2024 - and plan to join us on one of the hikes.  We will have more details in future newsletters.

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 flyers

  • working on legislative issues

  • working on elections

  • fundraising

  • organizing events

  • joining an issue committee 

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.


Contribute to the Iowa Chapter

Sierra Club - working every day on 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. 

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 

Ensure your environmental legacy by naming the Iowa Chapter in your will or trust. These gifts cost you nothing now. You can hold onto your assets for as long as you need them.


Thank you for supporting our work!


Show activities between: and

When Earliest:     Latest:    

Word or Phrase Word or phrase to search for: 
Leader All or part of leader name to search for: 
Made all your selections above?   or

No Matching Activities Found

Processing please wait.


Date Activity (click title for full description)

Loading ...

Club support event
Social event
Activist event
Multiple events (map only)
Show activities between: and