Government

Tax relief package and the state budget still in talks, improving Iowa's air quality, EPA announces grants: Iowa Capitol Digest, April 24

The State Capitol building is shown in Des Moines on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The State Capitol building is shown in Des Moines on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

ADJOURNMENT PROSPECTS: Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Tuesday House and Senate leaders are continuing to meet with the governor’s office on crafting a tax relief package and the state budget.

“I had a great meeting with the speaker” of the House, he said. “I had a great meeting with the governor.

However, he had no agreement on a tax relief package to announce, which Whitver described as one of the “big items we’re still waiting on.”

Even if there is a breakthrough on the “big items,” Whitver acknowledged the conventional wisdom around the Capitol that it will take at least a couple of weeks to complete the session.

AIR QUALITY NOTICE: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources now is providing online public notice of air quality operating and major source construction permits.

The DNR is seeking Iowans’ input on permits that are up for review, said Lori Hanson, DNR air quality supervisor.

The online notices will make it easier for people to learn about opportunities to comment, she said.

People can subscribe to either EcoNewsWire or the Air Quality Technical newsletters to receive notices at the DNR’s social media and press room page. Check online at the Public Participation page to see permits up for public comment.

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The DNR will notify public libraries when a public comment period, usually 30 days, is open for a nearby facility.

Public hearings also will be posted in calendar listings on the DNR’s and state of Iowa’s home pages.

While DNR has posted information about draft permits and public comment periods for close to 20 years, Iowa DNR also has provided legal notice in a newspaper of general circulation. The printed notice met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements.

However, EPA recently changed its notification requirements, which DNR adopted April 18.

AIR QUALITY INPUT SOUGHT: As part of the next phase of a 2016 settlement with Volkswagen, a working group of state agency officials — led by the Iowa Department of Transportation — is seeking public input on a draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.

This plan outlines a high-level vision for the use of Iowa’s funds from the Volkswagen settlement, which are intended to improve air quality in the state.

State officials say there will be about $21 million available in Iowa for eligible projects that work to reduce nitrogen oxides.

Eligible projects are defined in the Environmental Mitigation Trust for State Beneficiaries that was established in the nationwide settlement of the Volkswagen litigation. No state funds will be utilized for these projects.

The public comment period on the plan is open until May 25. A copy of the plan and the comment form can be found at iowadot.gov/vwsettlement/default.aspx. The draft plan was developed with the help of a public survey taken from February to April 2017.

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REDUCING DIESEL EMISSIONS: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of grants for projects aimed at reducing emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of older diesel engines.

EPA anticipates awarding about $40 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Program grants.

Applicants in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska should request funding from EPA Region 7. The deadline to apply is June 5.

The maximum amount of federal funding that may be requested by an individual applicant is $1.5 million.

Diesel-powered engines move about 90 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage, and nearly all highway freight trucks, locomotive, and commercial marine vessels are powered by diesel engines.

EPA is looking for proposals that significantly reduce diesel emissions and exposure.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Doing this is really the statesmanlike thing to do.” — Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, in calling Tuesday for the Senate to take up a Senate resolution recognizing and congratulating Andie Dominick of the Des Moines Register on winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.

Gazette Des Moines Bureau

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