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Weekend open thread: Walking the talk edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 08:01:34 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

State Representative Chuck Isenhart, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee, has installed solar panels on his Dubuque home as a personal step to address climate change. Details are after the jump. Solar power has a reputation for being expensive to install, but technological advances and policy changes have reduced the payback time for many home and business owners. Isenhart expects to save money in the long-term. A bill approved during this year's legislative session improved Iowa's tax incentives for solar in several ways.

The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, begins its northern route in Rock Valley today. Good luck to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community planning to do all or part of RAGBRAI. Last week's weather would have been absolutely perfect; I hope the high temperatures will mostly stay below 90 this week. In its recent feature on "33 useful tips for newbies" to the experience, I found it strange that the Register focused so much on the drinking culture. Carl Voss, a Des Moines bicycling advocate and veteran of 36 RAGBRAIs, unloaded on what he called "sophomoric drivel" in an angry letter to the editor. Excerpt:

Granted, alcohol attracts some riders and non-riders among the more than 10,000 RAGBRAI participants. It happens. But trust me, that isn't the way most participants enjoy RAGBRAI, Iowa and our communities.

Now, flip to the RAGBRAI website, where RAGBRAI (and therefore the Register) includes among the "Top 10 Recommendations for Rider Safety": Do NOT drink alcohol and ride. [...]

Publishing crap like this in your news columns will turn me off to RAGBRAI and the Register.

Another letter to the editor, which I've posted after the jump, focused on the large number of puppy mills near this year's RAGBRAI route. The Iowa legislature passed a bill in 2010 that was designed to reduce abuses at puppy mills, but unfortunately Iowa still has some bad actors in the industry. Adopting a pet from a shelter such as the Animal Rescue League has so many advantages. If your heart is set on a purebred animal, at least visit the breeder's facility before buying a pet.

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Supreme Court ruling will speed up small solar projects in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 11:42:57 AM CDT

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that will make it easier for small-scale solar projects to move forward in Iowa. The up-front cost of installing solar panels has long been a barrier to unlocking Iowa's huge potential to generate solar power. Now municipalities, home or business owners will be able to have solar panels installed through a "third-party power purchase agreement," whereby they pay for the electricity generated after installation.

Follow me after the jump for background on this case, key points from the majority ruling, and reaction to the decision. Advocates for solar power in Iowa and elsewhere are enthusiastic about the potential for more small-scale renewable energy projects (sometimes called "distributed generation"). Utility companies are warning that the ruling will drive up electricity costs.  

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic Party convention edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 15:34:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The Iowa Democratic Party's state convention got overshadowed by the circus-like spectacle Republicans put on in Urbandale yesterday. We're talking about David Young's surprising nomination in IA-03 here. This is an open thread for all other topics.

After the jump I've posted several links about the Democratic convention and the full text (as prepared) of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's speech. He seems to have made a good impression, as he did at the Harkin Steak Fry in 2012. O'Malley won't challenge Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination; he was loyal Clinton surrogate during the 2008 primaries, even after Barack Obama crushed her in his state. If Clinton decides against running for president again, O'Malley could have a lot of upside potential in Iowa. He's much more familiar with this state than your average east-coast governor, having worked as a field organizer for Gary Hart's 1984 Iowa caucus campaign. John Deeth wrote up O'Malley's appearance for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch and running mate Monica Vernon in Iowa City.

UPDATE: Added below a short version of what would be the progressive case against O'Malley if he competes in the Iowa caucuses.

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Three ways the EPA carbon emissions plan will benefit Iowa, plus Iowa political reaction

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 11:05:38 AM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The full text of the rule and several short fact sheets are available on the EPA's website. Click here to read EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's speech about the new policy. This fact sheet makes the short and sweet case for targeting power plants, "the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S." The new policy goal is to "cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels" by the year 2030. Other associated benefits: cutting levels of soot and smog in the air by over 25 percent in 2030, and saving money and lives through reducing air pollution. In fact, the EPA estimates $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to implement the new policy.

While some in the environmental community were hoping for more aggressive carbon reduction targets, the new rule would be a big step in the right direction. For too long, elected officials in Iowa and nationally have ignored evidence that we need to address climate change. Furthermore, coal's "assault on human health" is immense and under-appreciated.

Iowa political reaction to yesterday's news was mostly disappointing but not surprising. I've enclosed noteworthy comments at the end of this post. But first, let's examine three reasons Iowans should embrace the EPA's new rule.  

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IA-03: Monte Shaw's strengths and weaknesses as a candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 14:42:41 PM CDT

State Senator Brad Zaun won a crowded primary in Iowa's third Congressional district in 2010, and he has led the only public polls in IA-03 this spring, but my best guess is that Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw will end up becoming Staci Appel's competition in the general election campaign. I assume no candidate will win 35 percent of the vote in tomorrow's primary, forcing a special district convention to select the nominee. From where I'm sitting, Shaw's strengths as a candidate outweigh his potential weaknesses with Republican voters and delegates.
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Branstad will sign cannabis oil, e-cigarette bills; undecided on dog racing

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 23, 2014 at 14:05:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad plans to sign a bill that would allow possession of cannabis oil for the treatment of some seizure disorders, he announced while taping Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program today. He noted the bill will help some children with epilepsy, and he's satisfied its "limited" scope will not increase abuse of marijuana in smokeable form.  

The governor also said he will sign a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to children, adding that his wife is a "militant" anti-smoker. Trouble is, that bill was backed by tobacco industry lobbyists. Many public health groups lobbied against the bill.

Branstad has not decided whether to sign the dog racing bill, which would end greyhound racing at one casino in Council Bluffs and get a non-profit casino in Dubuque off the hook for subsidizing the races. His concern isn't the massive giveaway to dog breeders and kennel owners, which makes no sense to me. Rather, he is worried that lobbyists for horse racing interests didn't get their cut from the bailout. O.Kay Henderson reports for Radio Iowa,

"I understand the benefits that the people in Council Bluffs and Dubuque see from this, and the greyhound industry," Branstad says. "My concern is the horse industry was left out of this." [...]

However, the governor's concern is over provisions in the bill that would give the greyhound industry authority to strike deals to simulcast dog and horse races at any of the state's casinos and get all of the profit from it. Today simulcasting deals are only allowed at the casinos in Altoona, Council Bluffs and Dubuque and Iowa's horse industry gets the financial take.

"There is some concern that I'm hearing from my friends in the horse industry. I've always been close with them," Branstad says. "We have a very big and significant horse industry in the state of Iowa."

Branstad has 'til June 2 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

"I'm trying to weigh all those things," Branstad says. "I want to do something that's fair to all the communities involved and fair to all the parties and the one group that seems to be, because of the simulcasting provisions of that bill, having some concerns is the horse industry and so I'm carefully reviewing that," Branstad says. "I have not made a final decision."

Environmental activists in Iowa are nervously awaiting the governor's decision on a bill to expand solar tax credits and several spending bills that include record-high funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) conservation program. The governor recently said he is concerned about various parts of a supplemental spending bill that contained $5 million of the REAP funding. In 2012, Branstad line-item vetoed half a million dollars for Iowa food banks on the Friday before Memorial Day.

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Highlights from this year's Iowa Senate votes on Branstad nominees

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 08, 2014 at 07:38:29 AM CDT

During the 2014 legislative session, the Iowa Senate confirmed all but a handful of Governor Terry Branstad's more than 200 nominees for state boards and commissions. It's not unusual for senators to vote down one or two appointees, but this year the Senate confirmed everyone who came up for a vote on the floor.

The only close call was former Iowa House Republican Nick Wagner, confirmed to the Iowa Utilities Board last month with just one vote to spare. Branstad originally named Wagner to the three-member utilities board in 2013 but pulled his nomination when it became clear that senators would not confirm him. Branstad named Wagner to that board anyway, right after the Senate adjourned for the year in 2013. By the time his nomination came up for consideration this year, a couple of factors that worked against him were no longer relevant. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar had resigned from the board to run for Congress, so there would no longer be two of three members from Marion (a Cedar Rapids suburb). Furthermore, Branstad named attorney Sheila Tipton to replace Dandekar, so senators could no longer object to the lack of a lawyer on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Still, most of the Democratic caucus opposed Wagner's nomination. State Senator Rob Hogg cited the nominee's support for a bad nuclear power bill that the legislature considered a few years back. Meanwhile, State Senator Matt McCoy (who incidentally wanted to pass the nuclear bill) noted that as a key Iowa House Republican on budget matters, Wagner "was not willing to listen" and "took very difficult and very hard-line positions." After the jump I've posted the roll call on the Wagner nomination; 11 Democrats joined all 24 Republicans to confirm him.

As in recent years, the governor withdrew a handful of nominees who were not likely to gain at least 34 votes (a two-thirds majority) in the upper chamber. A few nominees for low-profile boards had to go because of party imbalance issues. Chet Hollingshead, one of seven Branstad appointees to the Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, never came up for a vote, presumably because of a theft incident Bleeding Heartland user Iowa_native described here.

I am not sure why Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal informed Branstad that Jason Carlstrom was unlikely to be confirmed as chair of the Iowa Board of Parole. The governor first appointed Carlstrom to that position in the summer of 2012, to fill out the remainder of someone else's term. The Iowa Senate unanimously confirmed him during the 2013 legislative session. When Branstad reappointed Carlstrom to the parole board this year, I didn't expect him to run into any trouble. I will update this post if I learn more details.

The highest-profile nominee withdrawn by Branstad was former Iowa House Republican Jamie Van Fossen, whom the governor wanted to chair the Public Employment Relations Board. Cityview's Civic Skinny described the backstory well; I've posted excerpts after the jump. Van Fossen still serves on that board, having been confirmed to a full term in 2012. But the new chair will be Mike Cormack, a Republican who served four terms in the Iowa House and later worked for the State Department of Education. Senators unanimously confirmed Cormack last month. The outgoing Public Employment Relations Board chair, Jim Riordan, has alleged that the board faced political pressure from Branstad staffers to hire an employer-friendly administrative law judge.

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IA-Sen: Braley learns painful lesson in 21st century campaigning (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 17:59:19 PM CDT

Every candidate for public office has to learn basic rules of campaigning, such as, "Every mic is a live mic." In other words, always assume you may be overheard when you stand next to a microphone, even if you think it's not turned on.

In the age of camera phones and YouTube, candidates may be speaking into a live mic even when there's no microphone to be seen. Representative Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, learned that lesson the hard way today.  

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Ethanol Hearing

by: Francis Thicke

Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 21:15:57 PM CST

(In addition to earning a Ph.D in agronomy/soil science, Thicke is an organic farmer and was the Democratic nominee for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2010. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today I attended the hearing put on by Governor Branstad to bash the EPA for proposing to change the rules on the Renewable Fuels Standard for ethanol.  It was an all-day pepfest for ethanol.  I came late, but I think was the only one to talk about the "other side" of ethanol.Here are my remarks (although the footnote explanations and references don't come through):
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Corn ethanol under attack, or is it?

by: black desert nomad

Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:06:46 AM CST

(Here's a view you won't hear from Iowa elected officials of either party. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Later this week state and regional agribusiness leaders will gather at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates to cheerlead for corn ethanol.  The agenda for this “Hearing in the Heartland” is to rail against a proposed update to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The bipartisan entrenchment against the update suggests corn ethanol is being somehow threatened, but despite the fanfare it really isn’t.

The EPA’s update to the 2007 law deals mostly with 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels. The proposed volume requirements don't hinder corn ethanol; the grain mandates shifts a few percent as business models tend to do when they are updated after 7 years.  The long-term prospects for next generation biofuels also remain strong. So why an update?  Projections for next generation biofuel have not panned out, yet. Simply put: science & engineering need to catch up to ambitious policy.

Corn ethanol was always meant as a stepping stone to “advanced” biofuels. The RFS update only seriously impedes corn if convoluted math is done to figure corn as the stop-gap filler for our old overestimates for next generation biofuels. Vested interests want to double-down on endless growth in corn ethanol, but they have lost sight of the long game amidst a tangled web of conflict-of-interest.  

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"Alarm bells" over impact of new trade agreement on states' rights

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 13:05:24 PM CST

"States' rights" has typically been a rallying cry among American conservatives, but six Democratic Iowa legislators are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership now being negotiated may infringe on local control and states' ability to legislate in the public interest. In an open letter, 43 state lawmakers have asked 23 state attorneys general, including Iowa's Tom Miller, to analyze the Trans-Pacific Partnership's possible impact on state and local governments.

I've enclosed the text of the letter below, along with a news release on the initiative from the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. The Iowans who signed are State Representatives Chuck Isenhart, Marti Anderson, Dan Kelley and Curt Hanson, and State Senators Bill Dotzler and Joe Bolkcom. The letter spells out ten areas of state regulation that signers fear could be undermined by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Isenhart stressed that the lawmakers' concerns go beyond environmental issues, citing Iowa's support for the biofuels industry as well as state policies to protect consumers and discourage smoking.

President Barack Obama is seeking to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Activists who oppose the trade agreement have criticized the secrecy surrounding the negotiations as well as the agreement's tilt toward corporations and potential to undermine environmental and public health protections.

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user cocinero notes in the comments that the American Cancer Society is concerned about this trade agreement. At the end of this post I've enclosed a joint statement from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Mid-week open thread: Coal is not cheap edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 19:55:00 PM CST

Here's your mid-week open thread, Bleeding Heartland readers: all topics welcome. Earlier this evening, Governor Terry Branstad made his re-election campaign official. I'll post a roundup of news clips and highlights tomorrow morning.

One thing's been bothering me all week. We hear so much about how renewable energy is too expensive for consumers compared to coal and other fossil fuels used to generate electricity. But we don't often calculate the hidden costs of this allegedly "cheap" coal. Even under normal circumstances, coal takes an enormous toll on human health every step of the way, from mining to combustion to waste disposal. Chronic illnesses shorten lives, reduce productivity and can be expensive to treat.

Costs escalate when a catastrophe happens like last week's chemical spill in West Virginia. Not only were 300,000 people in the area left without usable water for days, residents of Cincinnati may be affected too as the pollution flows downstream. Taxpayers will foot the bill for the emergency water deliveries and probably most of the cleanup. The government board that will investigate the chemical spill lacks the resources to do its job properly.

Here's some good news, though, courtesy of the Iowa Environmental Council's blog:

Iowa is also making progress retiring coal-fired generation.  In fact, a recent announcement by Alliant energy that it will convert its M.L. Kapp station in Clinton to burn natural gas means that Iowa utilities have announced over one gigawatt of coal retirement in the last year.  These announcements include three Iowa plants involved in a settlement over Clean Air Act violations the Sierra Club reached with MidAmerican Energy last year.

Click through for a table showing coal-fired plants in Iowa that will either close or shift to natural gas. (Disclosure: I'm involved with the Iowa Environmental Council but not with their blog.)

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IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Braley and Branstad go to bat for biofuels (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 11:36:00 AM CST

Last month Iowa politicians from both parties expressed outrage after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard on how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. At an EPA hearing in Washington today, Representative Bruce Braley (a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee) and Governor Terry Branstad both testified against reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard. Several Iowa farmers and representatives of corn and soybeans growers also spoke and met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy afterwards.

After the jump I've posted a statement from Braley's office containing highlights from his remarks and a link to the video. Branstad warned that reducing the RFS could lead to another farm crisis like the one Iowa experienced during the 1980s. I will add more details from his testimony if they become available. I expect both Braley and Branstad to feature their advocacy for ethanol and biodiesel in their campaigns for the U.S. Senate and governor next year.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that last month, Branstad's re-election campaign created a "Protect the Renewable Fuel Standard" website. I've added more details on that effort below. Like the pro-Olympic wrestling site the campaign launched earlier this year, ProtectTheRFS.com presents as a petition supporting a popular cause in Iowa, doubling as a way to build the Branstad campaign's contact list.

The progressive 501(c)4 group Americans United for Change announced today that it will run a commercial on Des Moines-based television stations to support the Renewable Fuels Standard. Scroll to the end of this post for the video and transcript. The ad encourages viewers to send their comments to the EPA by visiting a website called SavetheRFS.com (a list-building effort like the one Branstad's campaign created). The veterans political action committee VoteVets.org, which is part of the Americans United for Change coalition, operates SavetheRFS.com.

SECOND UPDATE: Added more comments from Branstad below.

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Weekend open thread: Outrages of the week

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 17, 2013 at 08:05:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. Here are a few links to get a conversation started.

A Polk County district court ruling related to one of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz's pet projects called attention to the fact that Schultz was in Switzerland for the American Swiss Foundation's 24th annual Young Leaders Conference, a weeklong event. Whether the secretary of state should attend a foreign junket like this at any time is debatable. But it's ridiculous for him to have planned to be out of town when Iowa's 99 county auditors were gathering in Des Moines to discuss election-related issues. The Iowa Democratic Party and the only declared Democratic candidate for secretary of state blasted Schultz. I've posted their comments below, along with the official defense from the Iowa Secretary of State's spokesman.

Speaking of Schultz's pet projects, here's some important news from last month: the federal judge who wrote a key ruling upholding Indiana's voter ID law now believes he got that case wrong.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday that it is proposing to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard on how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. The announcement upset Iowa elected officials from both parties. After the jump I've posted statements from Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and all of the Iowans in Congress except for Representative Tom Latham (R, IA-03), who has not commented on this issue to my knowledge.

The Associated Press reported this week on how the push to produce corn-based ethanol has damaged the environment in Iowa and elsewhere.

One last outrage: Will Potter reported for Mother Jones about a case that "could make it harder for journalists and academics to keep tabs on government agencies." The FBI is going to court to prevent its "most prolific" Freedom of Information Act requester from accessing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

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IA-01: Two celebrity endorsements for Anesa Kajtazovic

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 13:25:00 PM CDT

During the past ten days, two people who are well-known to Iowa Democrats have endorsed Anesa Kajtazovic for Congress: Tim Dwight and Zach Wahls. A former Iowa Hawkeyes star and successful professional football player, Dwight now runs the solar energy company iPowerCorp and is president of the Iowa Solar/Small Wind Energy Trade Association. In recent years he has lobbied state legislators to help make Iowa a leader in "distributed generation, which is solar, small wind and also solar thermal." Distributed generation holds many economic benefits beyond what Iowa gains through large wind farms.

Since her first election to the Iowa House in 2010, Kajtazovic has recognized the huge potential for solar energy in Iowa. She has supported several bills to promote solar power, including new state tax credits enacted in 2012. That law reduced the payback time for small solar power systems installed in Iowa homes and businesses. Dwight described her as "a true champion for solar." After the jump I've posted the press releases announcing support from Dwight and Wahls and a video of Kajtazovic discussing her work on solar power.

Wahls gained national fame as an advocate for marriage equality when a video of his comments to an Iowa House hearing went viral in 2011. He was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. John Deeth was to my knowledge the first to report that Wahls was supporting Kajtazovic for Congress. On Monday, her campaign confirmed that endorsement.

Underscoring the candidate's appeal to a younger generation, Dwight spoke of Kajtazovic's "fresh ideas," while Wahls said "it's time for fresh, new voices" in Washington. Kajtazovic is the only candidate under age 50 in the five-way Democratic primary to represent IA-01. In the press release announcing Wahls' support, she condemned former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's views on equality for LGBT couples. Santorum recently endorsed State Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican candidate in IA-01. Whatever other issues may divide Democratic voters in this district, you can bet that all of them dislike Santorum's politics.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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MidAmerican Wind Property Tax

by: greggheide

Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 21:47:12 PM CDT

(Thanks to Gregg Heide for digging into this issue. We all support wind energy projects, but the numbers below suggest that some school districts near a major MidAmerican Energy wind farm "might be due more [tax] revenue than they are receiving now." - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I've been trying to discover if MEC is paying the correct amount of property taxes at their wind farm located near me.  The quick answer is- I don't think they are- due to information (mostly a lack of information) provided by MEC employee Dean Crist.   An earlier post on this subject can be found here. Interested folks are invited to examine more posts on this subject at my blog.

To recap:  I became curious about how Pocahontas County determined the rates for the MidAmerican (MEC) wind project in the county. The assessor's office provided me with a property tax appraisal for the wind farm (constructed in three phases), for the first 131 turbines - $2,580,000 ($1720 per kW), the next 39 at $2,850,000 ($1,900 per kW) and $3,660,000 ($1591 per kW) for the final 13. The assessor's office reluctantly provided basic filings (after an attorney requested them in writing) submitted to the county by MEC that roughly match the assessments, listing met tower, land, turbines, and substation costs. Phase 1 & 2 are 1.5 megawatt turbines. Phase 3 turbines are 2.3 megawatts.

The following numbers were provided by Mr. Crist:

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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Energy and environment

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:31:31 PM CDT

This summer the U.S. House has approved several energy-related bills, which could affect public health and the environment as well as corporations in the oil, gas and coal sectors. As we saw last year, Iowa's four U.S. representatives don't consistently split on party lines when such bills come to the House floor.

Follow me after the jump for details on the latest energy legislation approved in the lower chamber. None of these bills are likely to pass the current U.S. Senate, but they would have better prospects if Republicans won a Senate majority in the 2014 elections.

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Iowa Utilities Board update, with background on Sheila Tipton and Nick Wagner

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 13:23:00 PM CDT

Catching up on news from last Friday, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Des Moines-based attorney Sheila Tipton to fill a term on the Iowa Utilities Board that runs through April 2015. Tipton replaces Swati Dandekar, who resigned earlier this month, presumably with a view toward running for Congress. After the jump I've posted background on Tipton. Her law practice has primarily focused on representing "energy, telecommunications and water public utilities and other business entities" before state and federal agencies. She will be subject to Iowa Senate confirmation during the 2014 legislative session. I don't envision her having any trouble during that process.

For decades, the Iowa Utilities Board had at least one attorney among its three members. Branstad broke with that tradition when he named Dandekar to a vacancy in 2011. Earlier this year, the governor sought to appoint another non-lawyer, former GOP State Representative Nick Wagner, to the same board. He later withdrew Wagner's nomination, which was in trouble in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate. But one day after the legislature adjourned for this year, Branstad named Wagner to the Iowa Utilities Board on an interim basis. Wagner will also be subject to confirmation during the 2014 legislative session. After the jump I've posted Wagner's official bio and some background on Senate Democrats' concerns about confirming him to this position.

Any comments related to the new appointees or the work of the Iowa Utilities Board are welcome in this thread. Incidentally, there is already another Republican candidate in the Iowa House district where Democrat Daniel Lundby defeated Wagner in the 2012 general election.

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Weekend open thread: High-tech, low return edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 09:55:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I've been thinking about some high-tech failures. For instance, genetically-modified seeds were supposed to solve farmers' weed problems. Yet weeds resistant to glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide) are "gaining ground" across Iowa. The problem is worse on farms where Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds have been planted the longest.

Rootworms "resistant to one type of genetically engineered corn" are also a growing problem. Genetically-modified seed was supposed to make corn plants poisonous to rootworm, but now farmers are "deploying more chemical pesticides than before." The outcome was predictable.

On a related note, research shows that nitrogen enrichment through added fertilizers can hurt plant diversity and productivity of grasslands in the long term.

Some Midwestern cities and towns "are absorbing a financial beating after betting big on an innovative coal-fired power plant" during the last decade. "Clean coal" was always a boondoggle.

Speaking of costly investments, the state of Iowa continues to shovel tax credits to Orascom for a fertilizer plant project that would have been built in Iowa anyway. But hey, what's another $25 million?

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Thanks and best wishes to David Osterberg

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 08:10:00 AM CDT

David Osterberg stepped down yesterday as executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, Iowa's leading think tank. A legendary figure in this state's environmental community, Osterberg served six terms in the Iowa House, chairing the Agriculture Committee for four years and the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee for two years. He has received honors and awards from many non-profit organizations and was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate against Chuck Grassley in 1998.

In 2001, Osterberg created the Iowa Policy Project "to bring a fact-based focus to public policy issues affecting Iowa families." The organization's research reports and Iowa Policy Points blog are must-reads for anyone interested in state policy. In conjunction with the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, the Iowa Policy Project also publishes valuable research on the Iowa Fiscal Partnership website. The latest Iowa Fiscal Partnership report shows how food assistance programs in the Farm Bill affect thousands of Iowans.

I was pleased to read in the statement enclosed below that Osterberg will keep working with the Iowa Policy Project on energy and environment research, and longtime assistant director Mike Owen will take over as executive director.  

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- Iowa Independent (archive)
- Iowa Policy Points
- Iowans for a Future That Doesn't Suck
- John Deeth
Iowa Conservative Blogs
- Hawkeye GOP
- The Bean Walker
- Caffeinated Thoughts
- The Conservative Reader: Iowa
- The Iowa Republican
Journalists' blogs and research
- 24-Hour Dorman
- Cedar Rapids Gazette government page
- Iowa Fiscal Partnership
- Iowa Policy Project
- Iowa Politics Insider
- Iowa Watchdog.org
- On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog
- On the Campaign Trail with Ed Tibbetts
- Newton Independent (Peter Hussmann)
- Politically Speaking
- Price of Politics, etc.
- O.Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa
Iowa Democrats
- Tom Harkin (U.S. Senator)
- Bruce Braley (IA-01)
- Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Iowa Democratic Party
- Iowa House Democrats
- Iowa Senate Democrats
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