116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In the early 1980s, an innovative effort led by a bipartisan group of lawmakers helped Iowa become a leader in wind energy production. As we grapple with a volatile energy crisis and an increase in historic floods and devastating droughts, we must look to our past to remember how to move forward together to build a sustainable future.
The recently released United Nations report on climate change reveals a rapidly-shrinking window to act to combat climate chaos. Extreme weather events are disrupting our communities and agricultural industry. We all share a responsibility to do our part to advance climate solutions.
In a rare but consequential moment, Congress came together to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and, with it, $550 billion to invest in long-term climate solutions that will help drive down energy prices for Iowans and prepare workers for green-collar careers. This funding can also help advance environmental justice and ensure all communities, particularly rural and communities of color, are part of our climate policies.
Our state must leverage new programs, such as the State Energy Program and the Energy Improvement in Rural or Remote Areas, to make significant improvements to our state’s infrastructure, such as updating our clean energy delivery systems to be more resilient and reliable. The BIL also offers direct assistance to families, such as the Weatherization Assistance Program.
As a member of the NewDEAL, a network of two hundred state and local elected officials, I’ve learned from my fellow leaders across the country who have demonstrated how to maximize the climate benefits of these once-in-a-generation funds. We can make a major down payment for a sustainable future.
Natural disasters impact us all without prejudice to which county or city we live in or which political ideology we ascribe to. Collaboration will be key to maximizing the climate impact of these funds. This requires changing old mindsets and encouraging policymakers across the state to develop long-range plans.
Municipalities can partner on larger regional projects and leverage more matching dollars from various agencies. That could include combining climate resiliency and job training funding to realize renewable energy production while simultaneously creating the pipeline to train, upskill, and reskill the local workforce.
While we don't agree on everything, we toured energy facilities across the state to learn how to support our renewable energy sector. Our caucus successfully protected consumers from harmful taxes on solar energy users by finding common ground with stakeholders.
We must also take additional actions in the legislature. In the Senate, I hope to revisit legislation that authorizes the Iowa Energy Center to establish a strategic plan for 100 percent of our state's energy demands to come from renewable sources by 2050.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic opportunity for our state. Let’s not miss this moment to make our communities more resilient and our economy more prosperous for generations to come.
Sen. Zach Wahls of Coralville is the Democratic Leader in the Iowa Senate.