Governor’s carbon panel excludes environmental groups

By: - June 23, 2021 1:15 pm

President Joe Biden will arrive at the U.N. Climate Conference without a deal on his environmental agenda. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Gov. Kim Reynolds has appointed a task force on carbon sequestration that is devoid of representatives of Iowa environmental groups that have long studied the issue. 

The panel named late Tuesday has representatives of agricultural companies, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, companies that promote carbon trading, Iowa State University, state agencies, biofuels interests, and the parent of MidAmerican Energy. It has no members of nonprofit environmental organizations such as the Iowa Environmental Council or Sierra Club that have made transitioning energy sources away from fossil fuels to renewable energy a priority in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“It is disappointing that members of the environmental community and sustainable farming advocates are not represented on Gov. Reynolds’ carbon sequestration task force,” Pam Mackey Taylor, director of Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, said in an interview. “Iowa has a chance to lead on this issue if we take bold, innovative steps in restoring soil health. Further, it will ensure that Iowa can continue to be a world leader in producing agricultural crops.”

Asked why the governor didn’t include environmental groups, Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett said, “Any group or person can apply to be on a working group.” 

Reynolds will lead the Carbon Sequestration Task Force along with Vice Chairman Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary. Under Reynolds’ executive order, the panel’s work will be financed primarily by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority. Debi Durham, who directs both agencies, is on the task force.

Carbon sequestration means capturing and storing carbon dioxide that otherwise would contribute to global climate change. One way to do that is for farmers to plant trees and other vegetation, and perhaps sell carbon credits on an exchange. 

“Because of our existing supply chain and emphasis on renewable fuel infrastructure, Iowa is in a strong position to capitalize on the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon-free economy,” Reynolds said in a statement. 

“Iowa is a recognized leader in renewable fuel and food production, and this is another opportunity to lead and be innovative, invest in Iowa agriculture, and facilitate new sources of revenue for our agriculture and energy sectors,” she added.

Reynolds said she hopes policy recommendations are ready before next year’s session of the Iowa Legislature. 

In a statement, Naig said the carbon work is a natural progression in agricultural innovation.

“Iowa is a leader in both food production and conservation so we must also lead agriculture’s sustainability efforts. The agriculture community is continuously seeking new technologies and solutions that allow us to balance food production, environmental stewardship and longevity,” Naig said. 

The effort can build on Iowa’s work in renewable fuels and cover crops, which can help reduce carbon emissions, Naig said.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported sources of Iowa’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, the most recent data available. (Image courtesy of DNR)

In the Iowa Department of Natural Resources 2019 greenhouse gas inventory, the most recent available, the state reported Iowa emissions of 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That was down 1.77% from the year before and 5.4% lower than 2010.

Much of the reduction from 2018 to 2019 was due to cuts in emissions at power plants and from farm soil management. 

Joining Reynolds, Naig and Durham on the panel, which will meet when Reynolds schedules a session, are: 

  • Kayla Lyon, director, Iowa Department of Natural Resources 
  • Scott Marler, director, Iowa Department of Transportation  
  • Geri Huser, chairwoman, Iowa Utilities Board   
  • John Crespi, director, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University 
  • Adam Kiel, managing director, Soil and Water Outcomes Fund  
  • William Fehrman, president and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway Energy   
  • John Larsen, chairman, president and CEO, Alliant Energy 
  • Jill Sanchez, manager of sustainability and investor relations, John Deere   
  • Sam Funk, director of Agriculture Analytics and Research, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation 
  • Bryan Sievers, manager of AgriReNew, Sievers Family Farms  
  • Kellie Blair, farmer 
  • Justin Kirchhoff, president, Summit Ag Investors  
  • Sam Eathington, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Corteva Agriscience 
  • Alison Taylor, vice president and chief sustainability officer, ADM 
  • Jill Zullo, vice president of bioindustrials, Cargill 
  • Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, president and CEO, Renewable Energy Group  
  • Nick Bowdish, president and CEO, Elite Octane 
  • Craig Struve, CEO, SoilView  
  • Steve Bruere, president, Peoples Company  

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.