SIOUX CITY | Four Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a Tuesday forum said they would protect and adequately fund environmental initiatives if they become the Iowa governor in 2019.
Candidates Cathy Glasson, Andy McGuire, Jon Neiderbach and John Norris were asked by Sierra Club moderators to discuss their vision for environmental issues in Iowa.
The four agreed the state has a role in developing a clean energy public policy to reduce the impacts of climate change, particularly since the federal government under the direction of President Donald Trump has been impotent on the issue.
The forum was held by the Northwest Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, as a venue to discuss environmental issues. Fifty-five people attended the forum at First Unitarian Church in Sioux City.
The candidates discussed the negative effects of climate change, which Democrats typically believe has been caused by humans burning fossil fuels, but some Republicans say that is not settled science.
"Climate change is a scientific fact, it is not a rumor," said McGuire, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman.
Speaking in similarly strong terms, Neiderbach, a former Des Moines School Board president, said, "Climate change is a clear and present danger to agriculture in Iowa."
Neiderbach said as governor he would not appoint any people to the Iowa Utilties Board unless they showed they understand the impacts of climate change and the need to continue diversifying the pieces of renewable energy.
Norris, who served as chief of staff for former Gov. Tom Vilsack, said it is indefensible that Republicans controlling the Legislature have a proposal to reduce solar energy tax credits.
Some candidates said they would limit the addition of any "factory farms" until the number of impaired waterways in Iowa is reduced. Glasson was the most detailed on that front, saying there are 750 polluted waterways in Iowa and she would have a moratorium on more factory farms until the number drops below 100.
Republicans controlling state government in January enacted a law that will produce roughly $282 million for water quality projects over the next 12 years, according to Republican state legislators.
The funds will support projects designed to filter nutrient pollutants out of Iowa waterways, and decrease soil erosion and pollutant runoff into waterways. Critics said it does not provide adequate funding — an Iowa State University report says the state’s water quality issues require $4 billion in program funding — and does not provide any methods to measure the funded programs’ effectiveness.
"The water quality bill they did, it is a sham," McGuire said.
"We have E. coli showing up in underwater aquifers," Norris said.
Glasson said the state should continue to "incentivize wind and solar" energies.
"Those are the jobs of the future. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past," said Glasson, president of SEIU Local 199, representing thousands of nurses and health care workers across Iowa.
McGuire, Norris and Neiderbach live in Des Moines, while Glasson lives in Coralville.
All guberatorial candidates, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, were invited to the nonpartisan forum. Those who did not take part included Reynolds and fellow Republican Ron Corbett, along with Democratic candidates Fred Hubbell and Nate Boulton.
The governor election will be held in November, while a primary vote will take place on June 5 to pick nominees of the two major parties.