Feb 15, 2024 - News

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds snubs county environmental efforts

Illustration of the word No with the letter O doubling as a no symbol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Gov. Kim Reynolds' office recently denied a request to endorse applications being made by counties to tap into a federal environmental grant program.

Why it matters: Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) — the same program Reynolds' administration refused to apply for last year — are providing $5 billion to state and local governments.

  • Significant local environmentally friendly investments are likely if county efforts are successful.

Catch up fast: The grant is part of an inflation reduction bill signed by President Biden in 2022 intended to help state or local governments implement "ambitious plans" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution.

Zoom in: Iowa is one of five states not participating, alongside Kentucky, Florida, Wyoming and South Dakota.

  • The decision means investments will go to larger metro areas rather than distributed via a more coordinated, statewide approach, Brian Campbell, director of the Iowa Environmental Council, told Axios last year.

Driving the news: Officials working together from Polk, Dallas, Guthrie, Jasper, Madison, Story and Warren counties sought a state government endorsement to strengthen their CPRG application due March 1.

  • A state employee responded to the counties by saying the governor's office had instructed them not to give the recommendation, county administrator John Norris told Axios.

The intrigue: No support from the governor might instead help the county's chances with the EPA, who is aware she turned down the state's opportunity to participate, Norris said in a memo to county supervisors this month.

  • A spokesperson for the governor declined Axios' request to speak on the record.

The big picture: Reynolds' administration has rejected more than $200 million in federal grants in recent years, including more than $29 million in food assistance this year for children of low-income families.

Separately, Polk County Health Department officials are currently asking supervisors for $40,000 to make up for another federal grant that has covered for decades cancer screenings for women without insurance.

  • New requirements and administrative costs not paid by the grant resulted in the state's decision not to apply, Alex Murphy of the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services told Axios.
  • Iowa continues to participate in a similar program, he said.

Of note: Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, a Republican, reversed course this week by agreeing to accept the extra summer food assistance for children.

  • Reynolds won't reconsider because the program started as pandemic relief and was not intended to be permanent, Kollin Crompton, a spokesperson for the governor, told Axios.
  • Iowa will instead work to expand another food program, Crompton said.
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