March 2, 2015

Environment Iowa accuses Ottumwa company of ‘polluting politics’

A company with a plant in Ottumwa that the group Environment Iowa listed as the state’s “number one disposer of toxic chemicals into waterways” is accused in a new report of “polluting politics.”

Jon Brotman is with Environment Iowa.”Our report finds the owner of Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation spent $1.3 million on lobbying in a single year. The enormous spending came after Cargill dumped 2.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in Iowa in 2012 alone,” Brotman says. The “Polluting Politics” report was released this week by Environment America shortly after a bill in the U.S. House was introduced. The measure would block the EPA’s rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to waterways across the country.

“While average Americans have submitted 800,000 comments in support of the EPA rule…powerful special interests are using their deep pockets on lobbying and campaign spending to get Congress to intervene,” Brotman said. A spokesperson for Cargill, Mike Martin, told Radio Iowa last year that his company takes environmental stewardship very seriously. “We have a very large pork processing facility in Ottumwa and what we’re talking about here is organic, nitrogen based compounds that have no toxicity to aquatic life, but they do have to be recorded,” Martin said.

The new report from Environment America is also critical of Tyson Fresh Meats, which has several plants in Iowa. The report claims Tyson Foods spent over $1.1 million on campaign contributions and lobbying in 2012, the same year Tyson dumped 1.7 million pounds of toxic pollution into Iowa’s waterways, according to Environment Iowa. “The same companies that are polluting our rivers with toxic chemicals are also polluting our politics with their spending,” Brotman said.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican, is among those opposed to the EPA’s effort to expand its jurisdiction to streams and wetlands. This week, Ernst invited Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy to visit Iowa to learn “first-hand the impact that these regulatory actions are having on everyday Iowans.”

Car found in creek belongs to missing Oskaloosa woman

Update (4:30pm)  Police say a body was found in the area of the car, but they have not yet released the identity of the body.

Previous story: Authorities say a car found partially submerged in a creek near Grimes this morning belonged to an Oskaloosa woman reported missing on Monday. No one was found inside the car, which investigators believe may’ve been in the water for several days. The woman reported missing, 45-year-old Sallie West, was expected in Ankeny Monday morning, but never arrived there.

Dive teams were searching the creek this afternoon. West’s vehicle was a 2002 white Pontiac Grand Am. On Monday, just after 1 p.m., Polk County authorities received a report of a vehicle matching that description driving erratically near the intersection of Highways 141 and 44. Deputies responding to that call were unable to find the vehicle. The car pulled from the water this morning was in an area below a bridge on Highway 141.


Iowa State Fair adds country star Carrie Underwood to lineup

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood

One of the biggest country music superstars of the past decade has been added to this year’s Iowa State Fair Grandstand lineup. According to a post this morning on the fair’s Facebook page, Carrie Underwood will perform on Monday, August 17th.

The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. and includes opening act Michael Ray. Underwood rose to fame by winning American Idol in 2005. She joins other previously announced Grandstand headliners Reba McEntire (Aug. 16), Alabama (Aug. 20), Casting Crowns (Aug. 13), Justin Moore (Aug. 14), and Def Leppard (Aug. 15).

Tickets will go on sale later this spring. The Iowa State Fair runs August 13th through the 23rd in Des Moines.


Thousands of Iowans impacted by cyberattack on Anthem

Nearly 173,000 Iowans were impacted by the cyberattack reported earlier this month by a major U.S. health insurance provider. Anthem, Incorporated provided more information about the data breach and Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that it may have affected 172,727 Iowans who are current and former Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield members.

Gerhart said those affected by the breach will be contacted by the insurance company about identity theft repair services and credit monitoring. Anthem reported the cyberattack involved a database of records for 80 million people. Some of the information comprised included names, medical ID numbers and Social Security numbers.

Iowa consumers can visit or call 1-877-263-7995 to sign up for protections Anthem is providing.


Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton top Democrat in Iowa for 2016

Hillary and Bill Clinton at the 2014 Tom Harkin Steak Fry.

Hillary and Bill Clinton at the 2014 Tom Harkin Steak Fry.

A new poll of likely Iowa Democratic Caucus participants finds Hillary Clinton with a huge lead among the party’s potential 2016 presidential candidates. Peter Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. He says it appears if Clinton runs for the nomination, in Iowa at least, the race is hers to lose.

“She’s got 61-percent when Democratic Caucus goers are asked for their first choice,” Brown says. “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is next with 19-percent and no other candidate breaks into double digits.” Today’s Quinnipiac Poll of Democrats in Iowa follows the university’s poll released Wednesday tracking the Republican side. That poll found 25-percent of likely Iowa Republican Caucus-goers would support Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a race for the White House.

Scott Walker

Scott Walker during an Iowa visit in January.

“Governor Walker is ahead by roughly 2-to-1 over his nearest competitors,” Brown says. While it appears Walker is poised to become the front-runner in Iowa, Brown is quick to point out that the Iowa Caucuses are still 11 months away and the winner is no shoe-in for the GOP presidential nomination.

“The caveat, looking at the Republican race, is that there are many candidates. At this stage, a dozen or more have said they’re interested in running,” Brown says. “But, in the last two Caucuses — in 2008 and 2012 — the winners of those Iowa Caucuses did not even come close to winning the Republican nomination.”

According to this week’s Quinnipiac Poll, the closest competitors for Walker are Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (13-percent), physician Ben Carson (11-percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (11-percent), and Florida Governor Jeb Bush (10-percent).



House bill tries to address shortage of psychiatric treatment

David Heaton

David Heaton

Legislation to address a shortage of psychiatric treatment beds across the state has cleared a three-member panel in the Iowa House. The bill would direct the Department of Human Services to devise a tracking system to locate an available bed when a patient is having a psychiatric emergency.

Representative David Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says a county sheriff from his community recently made 40 calls trying to find room for a patient. “Forty calls and he ended up having to take two of his deputies off staff and place the client in a police car and travel 312 miles across the state to Sioux City,” Heaton said. According to Heaton, officers sometimes make the trip only to find that the available bed was already filled.

“And think about the patient in the back of the car, handcuffed with his hands behind the back, spending 6 or 7 hours in the car,” Heaton said. “It’s horrible. It’s inhumane.” Heaton says the closing of the mental health facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will make the situation worse. He says it will take time for the state’s new regional mental health systems to come up with more community placements for the mentally ill.

The DHS is already working on a monitoring system with the help of a federal grant.


Big winter storm expected to dump more snow on state

View from DOT snowplow on Highway 30 west of Marshalltown.

View from DOT snowplow this morning on Highway 30 west of Marshalltown.

A major winter weather storm is rolling through Iowa as snow started flying this morning in the northwest and is moving southeast through the state.

Jim Lee is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “The accumulations will vary widely across the state. The southwest corner will see very, very little (snow). Whereas, in a band from about the northern to southeastern part of the state we’re looking at six plus inches,” Lee said.

Parts of Iowa may receive eight or more inches of snow. Some cities in the area projected to get the most snow include Webster City, Marshalltown, Newton, and Oskaloosa. Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories cover nearly the entire state. The heaviest snowfall may occur over sections of central during the afternoon commute. “We’re looking for snowfall rates probably close to an inch an hour at times within that heaviest band,” Lee said.

As the snow is moving out of the state later tonight, winds are expected to increase and usher in some very cold conditions. High temperatures on Thursday and Friday will be in the single digits to teens across the state. Another smaller snow event is possible for parts of Iowa Saturday night into Sunday.