EPA leader pledges ’seat at the table’ for agriculture | The Gazette

Source: By Gazette staff and wires • Posted: Wednesday, May 5, 2021

DES MOINES — In his first visit to Iowa, newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan said Tuesday that agriculture would “have a seat at the table” as complex environmental issues are tackled.

Regan toured the Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant near Nevada before holding a roundtable discussion with farmers and later briefly visiting Gov. Kim Reynolds in Des Moines. Late in the afternoon, he joined state and city officials in announcing plans for a superfund site on the edge of downtown Des Moines.

“Our Agricultural community must have a seat at the table if we are to successfully tackle the climate crisis,” Regan tweeted after the Nevada event.

His visit comes as the issue of waivers to the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard — granted to oil refiners by the Trump administration over the objections of farm state interests — is before the U.S. Supreme Court. While the waivers represented a rare break from Trump policies among Iowa Republican officials, they also have expressed concerns that while the Biden administration does not want the court to reinstate the waivers, it has not signaled enough support for corn- and soybean-based biofuels.

“We appreciate Administrator Regan came to Iowa to learn more about biofuels and the important role biofuels will play in America’s clean energy future,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw in a statement. ”Today Mr. Regan heard a loud and clear message: biofuels are way more than a transition fuel; biofuels are the net-carbon-negative fuel of the future. Improved production practices at both the farm and plant levels combined with carbon sequestration technologies preparing to be deployed can make biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel net carbon negative over the next decade. That’s something that wind and solar can never achieve.“

Regan later tweeted that he met with Reynolds over “shared priorities” that included agriculture having a “seat at the table,” investing in water infrastructure to ensure clean water and economic development and cleaning up environmental disasters like the superfund site.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks to reporters Tuesday after a news conference in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The 43-acre Des Moines property was classified as a federal superfund site in 1983. That entitled the property to federal funding under a 1980 law that allows the EPA to clean up contamination and force the responsible parties to remove contaminants or reimburse the government.

The contamination and needed cleanup have been the subject of extended litigation between Titan International, the parent company of manufacturers Dico and Titan Tire Corp., and the EPA. The property has been vacant 25 years.

Under a court ordered settlement approved in February, Dico and Titan will pay $11.5 million to the EPA and give the property to the city of Des Moines. The city will operate a groundwater treatment system, which will be upgraded by the EPA, and work with the EPA on future uses.

“EPA has been working on the Dico site for a long time time now and the city has been suffering with this blight for decades. At EPA we know that it’s not just about the cleanup, it’s about what’s to come after,“ Regan said. ”We’re leading with the mentality that environmental protection and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive. They actually go hand in hand.”

The city of Des Moines has applied for $27.1 million in state funds from the Reinvestment Districts Program to redevelop the site. The Iowa Economic Development Authority is expected to meet May 21 to announce whether the project was chosen for funding. Cedar Rapids also is among the cities applying for state assistance, hoping to be awarded $39.5 million to help develop six “transformational” projects downtown.

Aid that Des Moines is seeking would go toward a proposed $276 million project on the reclaimed superfund site that would include a 6,300-seat multiuse outdoor stadium that would be home to a professional soccer team as well as a hotel and other mixed-use developments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.