Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would require owners of large rental buildings to disclose typical utility costs to apartment-seekers. The legislation has momentum in large part due to a Des Moines-area property manager who has been a champion for energy efficiency in his buildings. “Rental housing is the low-hanging fruit” of energy efficiency, said Keith Denner, president of Professional Property Management. The problem is that property owners often aren’t rewarded for those investments. Residents are typically the ones who realize the cost savings, and they rarely have the information to factor utility bills into rental decisions.
Policymakers have eagerly promoted walking and bicycle riding as a way to get healthy exercise while reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. But those activities are becoming increasingly dangerous in America. More than 6,200 pedestrians were killed by traffic collisions in 2018, the last year for which federal statistics are available, continuing the rising trend of recent years. That’s the highest it’s been since 1990, and a 53 percent increase since 2009. Up until then, the number of pedestrian deaths had been steadily falling.
Nearly three decades ago, the federal government issued a somber warning. America’s scrap tires had to go somewhere without gobbling up landfill space. Billions of cast-off tires already had accumulated in ugly stockpiles and millions more were “scattered in ravines, deserts, woods, and empty lots,” sparking toxic fires that burned for months, the Environmental Protection Agency declared in a 1991 report. “As costs or difficulties of legal disposal increase, illegal dumping may increase,” the agency said. But there was hope of a solution, and the EPA was all in.
ByChelsea Keenan, IowaWatch; Sara Konrad Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times Citizen; Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio; Mark Mahoney, N’west Iowa REVIEW and Michaela Ramm, The Gazette |
Hospital leaders say a policy fix is needed to ensure the future of rural hospitals in Iowa and across the country that are succumbing to financial pressures and closing their doors. Until that fix comes, though, Iowa’s network of rural community hospitals is making tough choices and smart partnerships to get by, a series of interviews by Iowa news organizations collaborating with IowaWatch revealed. Some have dropped OB-GYN services. Smaller hospitals have turned to larger ones to form partnerships, which can
result in the elimination of services to be more cost-efficient but forces
patients to drive out of town for health care. Other efforts to maintain local
hospital care include shifting to more outpatient care, the interviews show.
FLOODED SENSES: MEETING MENTAL HEALTH CARE DEMAND IN DISASTER-STICKEN IOWA. Iowa does not have enough psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or other mental health care providers to handle an increasing need to care for farmers dealing with relentless flooding this year, several mental health experts IowaWatch interviewed warned.
While one in eight Americans are considered to be “food insecure,” an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s supply of fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat goes to waste, discarded by farmers, retailers, restaurant owners and households. Three federal agencies have agreed to work together to cut that food waste in half by 2030. But a recent government oversight report found that the agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration – have made little headway, despite some initial actions. The EPA and USDA announced the national goal in 2015, with the FDA joining the effort last year. That was when the three agencies signed a formal, two-year agreement to develop a strategic plan to “increase collaboration and coordination.”
Yet according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the roles of the agencies remain undefined, and their 2030 goal faces widespread challenges.
ByChristopher Walljasper/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
A Brazilian-owned meat processing company undercut its competition by more than $1 per pound to win nearly $78 million in pork contracts through a federal program launched to help American farmers offset the impact from an ongoing trade war. As a result, JBS USA has won more than 26 percent of the $300 million the USDA has allocated to pork so far – more than any other company, according to an analysis of bid awards by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The USDA’s Trade Mitigation Program was announced last August, and included direct payments to farmers, as well as $1.2 billion in food purchases from farmers and ranchers whose crops normally benefit from international markets. The plan called for $558 million worth of pork purchases. The program is intended to help U.S. farmers and ranchers hurt by the ongoing trade disputes with China, Mexico, Canada and other trading partners.
Cannabis cultivation in the United States this year will consume 1.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity, about as much as the nation’s 15,000 Starbucks stores. And next year it’ll be even more, according to a report from analytics firm New Frontier Data estimating just how much power it takes to produce the nation’s cannabis crop. Yet even as they’ve welcomed it into the regulatory fold, states legalizing cannabis so far have done little to limit or even track the huge amounts of energy needed to grow it indoors. Among the 11 states to permit recreational use of cannabis, only Massachusetts and now Illinois, which did so this week, have included energy-efficiency standards for indoor cultivation, a practice that requires nearly nonstop use of lights and various heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
One other state, Oregon, requires simply that growers estimate and then report back on their energy use. Even this small step will help regulators there and in other states to better manage an industry whose electricity demand has long been kept as hidden as its product, says report co-author Derek Smith of Resource Innovation Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes resource conservation in the cannabis industry.
ByJohnathan Hettinger/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Foreign investors acquired at least 1.6 million acres of agricultural land in the United States in 2016, the largest increase in more than a decade, a Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting of the latest available federal data shows.
ByChristopher Walljasper and Ramiro Ferrando/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Farmers have been using the weed killer glyphosate – a key ingredient of the product Roundup – at soaring levels even as glyphosate has become increasingly less effective and as health concerns and lawsuits mount.