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Bolkcom focuses on green issues

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he thinks environmental change will take 10 to 20 years — although the work will never be done.

That was the focus of a talk Bolkcom gave at the University of Iowa on Thursday to highlight the importance of climate change in Iowa. He proposed water conservation, solar energy, and carbon reduction as the three most important issues to Iowans.

“It’s an ongoing investment,” he said. “Our land isn’t something that we can just ignore. We have to invest back into our land.”

Each month, the University of Iowa Environmental Coalition hosts a lecture series with a theme pertaining to environmental issues and topics.

November’s theme was environmental policy.

“We thought Sen. Joe Bolkcom, who represents Iowa City, would be an excellent individual to speak regarding this month’s theme,” said UI senior Sarah Nagengast, a co-president of the coalition. 

Bolkcom, who is a member of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and works as the Outreach Community Education Director for the Iowa Flood Center and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, is working to encourage Iowans to participate in the direct climate change recognition plan and realize that Iowans have to start doing more.

“[The nutrient-reduction strategy] is a volunteer strategy,” Bolkcom said. “[We’re] trying to clean up our water by keeping things like phosphorous and nitrogen out of our water. We all need to voluntarily agree to do better.”

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he believes water quality is a very prominent issue in Iowa.

“One of the things that should have passed last year that didn’t was $11 million in water-quality funding,” Kaufmann said. “Unfortunately, that was vetoed, and I’d like to see those funds restored, because we have water that can be in use of some cleaning.”

Bolkcom said activists in Iowa feel the state has waited way too long for clean water in Iowa, which is why the nutrient-reduction strategy is important.

In an effort to meet Iowa’s water-conservation needs, a proposal was implemented a few years ago to change the constitution for the state of Iowa.

The proposal states that the next time Iowa raises its sales tax, three-eighths of a cent will be taken toward water conservation and other environmental issues, which would equal $150 million of funding a year for conservation.

The primary issue with this proposal is pursuading legislators that raising taxes is the right thing to do, which is why it has not yet passed.

“It would be a game-changing investment,” Bolkcom said. “It would create a bunch of jobs and start the work of cleaning up Iowa’s rivers, lakes, and streams.”

Water conservation and cleaning would not only help the state of Iowa, but also help its farmers, which Bolkcom said costs a lot of money.

“The challenge for Iowa is we haven’t had the resources, and when we have had the resources, we haven’t put them forward,” he said.

Though some environmental changes are costly, Iowa is also pushing to see more of an uptake of solar energy and technology, he said.

This year, $4.5 million has been spent statewide to help people put solar collectors on their homes.

Not only do the solar collectors conserve energy, they also save their users money.

“[The solar collectors] encourage more mitigation through better choices on energy,” Bolkcom said.

In addition to utilizing solar energy, officials are trying to regulate carbon and carbon dioxide in order to reduce pollution.

“Every state is going to have to work with their utilities to reduce the amount of pollution put out to generate electricity,” Bolkcom said. “There’s quite a lot of attention on climate.”


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