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Iowa Utilities Board

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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Johnson, Floyd counties become Small Wind Innovation Zones

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 14:44:00 PM CDT

In a step forward for small-scale wind power in Iowa, the Iowa Utilities Board designated Johnson County and Floyd County as our state's first Small Wind Innovation Zones last week.
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Iowa Senate confirms Swati Dandekar, but six Democrats vote no

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 22:41:14 PM CDT

The Iowa Senate voted to confirm former Senator Swati Dandekar to the Iowa Utilities Board this evening by 43 votes to 6 (pdf).  
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The most brilliant Iowa political moves of 2011

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 06:50:00 AM CST

It's the most list-making time of the year. Let's start talking about Iowa political highlights of 2011.

This thread is devoted to master strokes. I don't mean our elected officials' wisest actions, or the policy choices that affected the greatest number of Iowans. I mean acts of such skill that even opponents had to grudgingly acknowledge their brilliance.

My top picks are after the jump. Tomorrow Bleeding Heartland will review the year's most bewildering acts of incompetence. On Thursday we'll look at the events that are likely to have the greatest long-term impact on Iowa politics.

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New EPA rules will reduce mercury, toxic emissions

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 08:09:38 AM CST

It's the season of giving, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just delivered an outstanding present to Americans who breathe air.  
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Dandekar will easily be confirmed to Iowa Utilities Board

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 25, 2011 at 17:49:35 PM CDT

At the Moving Planet climate change event in Des Moines on Saturday, I heard a few activists talk about organizing against former State Senator Swati Dandekar's confirmation to the Iowa Utilities Board. The Iowa Senate will consider her nomination during the 2012 legislative session.

I would advise environmentalists not to waste their time on that particular hopeless cause. Senate Democrats may be unhappy that Governor Terry Branstad jeopardized their control of the chamber by nominating Dandekar, but they are not going to block her confirmation.

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Swati Dandekar resigning, forcing Iowa Senate district 18 special election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 15:57:50 PM CDT

Democratic State Senator Swati Dandekar is stepping down from the legislature in order to accept an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, the Des Moines Register reported today. Her resignation forces a special election this fall in Iowa Senate district 18, which covers suburban and rural areas in Linn County.

Democrats currently hold a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority, so a Republican victory in the special election would deadlock the upper chamber for the 2012 legislative session. Follow me after the jump for a district map and first take on the race to replace Dandekar.

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Catch-up thread on Branstad appointments

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 07:00:00 AM CST

Governor Terry Branstad announced some important personnel decisions in the past few days, naming former State Representative Libby Jacobs to chair the Iowa Utilities Board and three new members of the Board of Regents, including Bruce Rastetter.

Follow me after the jump for more on those and other Branstad administration appointments.

UPDATE: On March 1 President Barack Obama named Branstad to co-chair the Council of Governors, "established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 to strengthen further partnership between the Federal and State governments as it pertains to national security." Branstad will serve a two-year term as co-chair.

SECOND UPDATE: Branstad announced more than 200 appointments to state boards and commissions on March 2. Bleeding Heartland covered the four appointees to the Environmental Protection Commission here; all have ties to large agribusiness.

Another name that caught my eye was Eric Goranson, a lobbyist and parochial schools advocate whom Branstad named to the State Board of Education. He has been a leading critic of the Iowa Core Curriculum (see here and here). The Under the Golden Dome Blog argues that Goranson's appointment may violate Iowa code, which states, "A voting member [of the Board of Education] shall not be engaged in professional education for a major portion of the member's time nor shall the member derive a major portion of income from any business or activity connected with education." Several of Goranson's lobbying clients represent religious private schools or Christian home-schooling parents.

THIRD UPDATE: I forgot to mention Branstad's two appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission: Helen St. Clair of Melrose and William Gustoff of Des Moines. I have been unable to find any information about Helen St. Clair, but a Maurice St. Clair of Melrose was among Branstad's top 20 individual donors, contributing more than $45,000 to the gubernatorial campaign. I assume he is related to Helen St. Clair and will update this post if I confirm that. William Gustoff is a founding partner of the Whitaker Hagenow law firm, which includes Republican former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley also worked at Whitaker Hagenow last year.

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Weekend open thread: Job news edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 10:46:53 AM CDT

Last week's horrible nationwide jobs report for June is another danger sign for the U.S. economy. Charles Lemos put the numbers in perspective here. The U.S. unemployment rate doesn't appear to be rising, but that's mainly because discouraged workers have stopped looking for a job. Other pieces of the economic picture aren't looking great either, and some analysts think we are on the brink of a double-dip recession.

In terrible news for central Iowa, Wells Fargo announced on July 7 that it is "eliminating Des Moines-based Wells Fargo Financial and 3,800 positions nationwide." From the Des Moines Register report:

Wells Fargo Financial will eliminate 2,800 positions in the next six months. The majority of those will come with the closing of 638 Wells Fargo Financial stores around the country, including 12 in Iowa. Only 14 of the initial layoffs will be in the Des Moines headquarters.

Wells Fargo also will eliminate an additional 1,000 positions in the next 12 months, most of those positions in Des Moines, said David Kvamme, president of Wells Fargo Financial. [...]

Currently, Wells Fargo Financial has approximately 14,000 team members throughout the country, and 3,500 in Des Moines. The remaining 10,600 jobs will transition to other Wells Fargo units, including mortgage and community banking.

Laid off employees will receive 60 days' working notice and a severance package.

Affected Wells Fargo employees also are encouraged to apply for other jobs throughout the company. Wells Fargo currently has more than 400 open positions in the Des Moines area, Kvamme said.

Wells Fargo is Iowa's largest bank in terms of deposits and Central Iowa's largest private employer with about 12,900 employees in the Des Moines area.

The Des Moines area is far from the worst place to do job-hunting; unemployment and the cost of living are pretty good compared to other medium-sized cities. Still, that's a lot of people who will hit the job market at the same time.

Here's some good news from the past week: the Iowa Utilities Board adopted "rules to encourage the development of more small wind generation systems across Iowa," the Newton Independent reported.

One prominent Iowan got a new (unpaid) position this week, as President Obama appointed Vermeer Corporation president and CEO Mary Andringa to his 18-member export advisory council. Heavy-hitter Iowa Republicans tried to recruit Andringa to run for governor last year, and she is a chair of Terry Branstad's campaign.

The celebrity job story of the week was of course LeBron James abandoning the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. I haven't watched an NBA game in years, but I think James should have stayed in Cleveland, or at least not humiliated his hometown on nationwide television. A couple of good takes on the unprecedented dumping via tv special: Bill Simmons for ESPN and Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Some enterprising person was able to make google searches for "Terry Branstad" turn up ads for cheap drugs from Canada. The ads look like they are coming from Branstad's official campaign website. Luke Jennett of the Ames Tribune got the scoop. As of Sunday morning, the problem still hadn't been fixed.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

UPDATE: Who else watched the World Cup final? I was rooting for the Netherlands, but at least it wasn't decided by penalty kicks. Spain scored a goal in the final minutes of extra time to post its fourth straight 1-0 victory. (Paul the psychic German octopus was right.) I'm happy for Spain, because they looked like the better team for most of the game, but it's incredible to think that they are the World Cup champions after scoring eight goals in seven games.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 08, 2010 at 08:08:56 AM CST

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor's race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state's major events of the decade.

After the jump I've posted links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn't manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent's compilation of "Iowa's most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009," as well as that blog's review of "stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010."

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Background on new Iowa Utilities Board Chairman Rob Berntsen

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 07:57:06 AM CST

Governor Chet Culver made two appointments to the Iowa Utilities Board this week. He named Rob Berntsen as the IUB's new chairman, replacing John Norris. Norris stepped down from the IUB in order to serve as chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Culver also reappointed Krista Tanner as one of the IUB's three members. Culver appointed her in 2007 to serve out the remainder of someone else's IUB term, which expires at the end of April. Now she will serve out the remainder of Norris's term, which ends in April 2011.

The governor named Berntsen for the full six-year term that begins on May 1 and expires in 2015. (The third IUB member, Darrell Hanson was appointed by Culver in 2007 for a term that expires in 2013.)

Join me after the jump for more background on the new IUB chairman, along with some speculation about what can we expect from the board.  

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The Marshalltown coal plant is dead

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 10:23:46 AM CST

Here's some good news for the environment and public health:  

Interstate Power and Light on Thursday canceled plans for a $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown, citing the economy and uncertainty over state regulations. [...]  

"At the end of the day it's economic condition, uncertainly regarding future regulatory and legislative treatment of environmental issues, meaning greenhouses gases," said spokesman Ryan Steensland.

Other factors were terms placed on the power plant by the Iowa Utilities Board, including a 10.1 return on equity for investors. "It would have made it very challenging to attract the capital necessary to build these types of investments. The cost and the return laid out by the board just did not wet the appetite of the investment community to move forward with this project," Steensland said.

 
Economic concerns prompted a different company to pull the plug on a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo earlier this year.

Thanks to all the environmental and public-health advocates who have worked so hard for years to defeat both coal plants, including the Sierra Club, Plains Justice, the Iowa Environmental Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Community Energy Solutions, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association and Iowa Interfaith Power and Light.  

I am still annoyed that the Iowa Utilities Board approved an application to build the Marshalltown plant last spring, but at least the IUB's recent ratemaking decision helped doom the project.

Please disregard my action alert regarding public comments on the DNR's draft air quality permit for the Marshalltown plant.

UPDATE: At Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed points out that the coal plant would have created 85 permanent jobs as well as providing a lot of temporary jobs during its construction. I sympathize with people who are upset about losing those jobs. However, I do not support making a 50-year investment in the wrong direction on energy production, which would also result in more respiratory illness, mercury pollution and higher utility bills for thousands of Iowans, all for the sake of some jobs in the Marshalltown area.  

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Alliant may walk away from the Marshalltown coal plant

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 14:38:17 PM CST

On Wednesday the Iowa Utilities Board delivered a long-awaited ruling on "ratemaking principles" for the coal-fired power plant that Interstate Power and Light (a subsidiary of Alliant Energy) wants to build near Marshalltown. The ratemaking principles determine how much of a return the investor-owned utility can make on its investment. A higher return for the utility means the company can pass more of the cost of building a new plant onto customers.

The Iowa Utilities Board's decision was well below what Alliant requested and not far above what the Iowa Consumer Advocate's Office was seeking. The Cedar Rapids Gazette quoted an energy industry analyst:

"We expect LNT (Alliant Energy) will not accept the ratemaking principles as approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, instead allowing the proposal to die," said David Parker of Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. He said Alliant will probably look instead to building more wind and natural-gas electric turbines.

At Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed links to an article from the Marshalltown Times-Republican that similarly suggested the future of the project is in doubt.

Alliant's official statement left options open but made clear that the company was not happy with the ratemaking ruling. Excerpt:

In its decision, the IUB established a return on equity of 10.1 percent and a cost cap of $2816.00 per kilowatt, excluding AFUDC. IPL had requested a return on equity of 12.55 percent and a cost cap of $3483.00 per kilowatt, excluding AFUDC. IPL has proposed to own 350 megawatts of the facility's output, with the remaining output owned by other partners or included in purchased power agreements.

"We will need to review the IUB's written order to determine our next steps," states Tom Aller, president-IPL. "However, the conditions placed by the IUB on the proposed hybrid power plant present a number of challenges in today's financial climate, and we are disappointed that this decision seemingly does not take that reality into account. We will continue to work with our partners to determine how today's decision will impact our respective companies' long-term generation plans. IPL remains committed to pursuing safe, reliable, environmentally responsible and cost effective energy supply options to meet Iowa's future energy needs."

I would not be surprised if Alliant follows the lead of LS Power, which opted last month not to pursue a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo. Alliant's subsidiary in Wisconsin may ask state regulators to allow an emergency rate hike because the economic slump has reduced demand for electricity:

Utility executives said the increase would be needed to offset a dramatic decline in power sales because of the recession.

With the closing of the Janesville General Motors plant and other factory cutbacks, the utility is forecasting power sales to drop 6% this year.

"It is understandable that our customers find it frustrating that the economic hardships many of them are experiencing could in turn compel us to increase their electric bills," said Patricia Kampling, the utility's chief financial officer, during a conference call Thursday.

Think about that for a minute. All along Alliant and their boosters in Marshalltown have been telling us that a new coal-fired power plant is needed to meet increased electricity needs. But future demand is almost surely going to be below what they have projected.

We could reduce our baseload needs further with an aggressive energy efficiency policy.

While several analysts interpreted Wednesday's ratemaking ruling as bad news for Alliant, it's worth noting that Plains Justice had a different take:

"The Iowa Utilities Board has missed an important opportunity to protect our state's economy and shield  Iowa consumers from a significant electricity rate increase," said Carrie La Seur, President of Plains Justice.

"New coal power plant proposals are being canceled across the country because they cost too much and pose too many financial risks. The IUB has really let Iowans down by opting for an expensive, polluting coal plant instead of the available cheaper alternative of aggressive energy efficiency programs," she added.

I put the full text of the Plains Justice release after the jump.

On a related note, Plains Justice passed along this news via e-mail a few days ago:

Last week, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) denied a petition to re-open the generating certificate proceedings for the proposed Marshalltown coal plant. The generating certificate grants permission for the power plant to be built.

A petition for re-hearing had been filed by the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate and joined by Plains Justice on behalf of Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Iowa Renewable Energy Association (the Coalition). Now that the petition has been denied, the IUB's decision to grant the generating certificate can be appealed in state court although it is not yet known whether anyone will appeal.

A lawsuit would only add to the delay and expense of building this power plant.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is expected to issue a draft air permit for the Marshalltown plant very soon. Opponents of this 50-year investment in the wrong direction on energy will want to make their voices heard during the public comment period on that permit. Coal-fired power plants are a major source of fine-particulate matter pollution, which is linked to various respiratory illnesses.

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Norris to leave Iowa Utilities Board, work for Vilsack again

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 21, 2009 at 20:56:40 PM CST

John Norris will become Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's chief of staff at the US Department of Agriculture, Iowa Independent reported today. Norris was Vilsack's chief of staff early in his first term as governor.

In November, Norris's wife, Jackie Norris, accepted an offer to become chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Before Barack Obama announced his plan to nominate Vilsack to run the USDA, John Norris indicated that he was interested in being appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Norris's departure means that Governor Chet Culver will need to make two appointments to the three-member Iowa Utilities Board this spring. Norris currently chairs the IUB. Someone will need to fill the remainder of his term, which expires in April 2011.

IUB member Krista Tanner has been serving out the remainder of a term that expires in April 2009. I do not know whether she will ask to be reappointed to a full six-year term on that body.

Last year Tanner and Norris cast the deciding votes to approve an application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown. However, the IUB has yet to issue a ruling on ratemaking principles for that plant. Reuters reported last March,

Ratemaking principles define how construction costs will be recovered in utility rates throughout the life of the generating facility. [Interstate Power and Light] is requesting a 12.55 percent return on common equity as part of the filing.

Several environmental organizations have intervened with the IUB regarding the ratemaking for this proposed plant. The board's decision could affect whether Interstate Power and Light proceeds with this project or abandons it as unprofitable. LS Power recently announced that it no longer plans to build a coal-fired power plant near Waterloo.

If you know any qualified candidates who are interested in serving on the Iowa Utilities Board, encourage them to submit their resumes and supporting materials to the governor's office as soon as possible.  

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 22:00:00 PM CST

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I've linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I'll do a review of Bleeding Heartland's 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Emperor "Clean Coal" has no clothes

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 11:19:40 AM CST

A Siegel has a great diary up on a new television advertising campaign launched by the "Reality Coalition" today to convey this message: "In reality, there's no such thing as clean coal." I love the use of humor in the ad:

After the jump, I've posted the whole press release issued by the Reality Coalition. You can sign up to join their effort by clicking here.

My only concern about this message is that it suggests greenhouse-gas emissions are the only thing that makes coal "dirty." Coal-fired power plants are not only a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, they are also one of the leading sources of fine particulate matter linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. This fine particulate matter, also known as particulate matter 2.5, "is much smaller in size and a more serious health hazard" than larger soot particles known as particulate matter 10.

Even if greenhouse gases and all other pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants could be controlled, coal mining itself would still create adverse environmental impacts. Making coal "clean" would require a lot more than capturing the carbon emissions.

Quibbles aside, I think this commercial is outstanding and look forward to more from the Reality Coalition.

I hope that future advertising will directly combat the coal industry's claim that we need new coal plants to meet future demand for electricity. In April, Iowa regulators approved Alliant's application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown, and later explained that they did so because they think renewable energy sources will not be sufficient to meet Iowa's base-load electricity needs in the future.

The environmental movement needs to convince not only the public but also policy-makers from Barack Obama down to state-level regulators that Al Gore's vision of ending our reliance on carbon-based fuels is realistic.

UPDATE: A commenter at MyDD pointed me to a recent report from Greenpeace called The True Cost of Coal. It contains much more information about health and environmental hazards associated with mining and burning coal.  

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DNR should strictly limit pollutants from proposed coal plant

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 14:43:27 PM CST

Ever since the Iowa Utilities Board voted 2-1 to approve Alliant's application to build a new coal-fired power plant outside Marshalltown, environmentalists have been hoping the Iowa Department of Natural Resources would be strict when issuing a draft air permit for the plant.

Coal-fired power plants are not only a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, they are also one of the leading sources of fine particulate matter linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.

Neila Seaman, director of the Sierra Club's Iowa Chapter, wrote an op-ed column published in the Des Moines Register on Monday, and she doesn't sound optimistic about the DNR's likely action in this case:

To regulate greenhouse gases and particulate matter 2.5, the DNR should require Alliant to perform a "best available control technology" analysis, known as a BACT analysis. The analysis considers all control technologies available on the market, evaluates what would control the pollutants for this type of facility and takes into account the technology already installed to control the pollutant. With that information, the best technology installed is used to set limits. The limits that are set in the permit would result in the best control of that pollutant. Without this analysis, the permits will not control the pollution from particulate matter 2.5 and greenhouse gases at all.

In other words, without the best-available-control-technology analysis, there will be no regulation of the pollutant in the air permit. With no regulation in the air permit, Alliant will be able to spew unlimited amounts of greenhouse gases and particulate matter 2.5 into the atmosphere.

Currently, the DNR appears to be unwilling to require a best-available-control-technology analysis, asserting rules specifically regulating these pollutants are not in place. The Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club respectfully disagrees. The DNR also maintains that particulate matter 10 - a larger soot particle - is being regulated and, therefore, there is no need to regulate particulate matter 2.5. Although the DNR does control limits on particulate matter 10, particulate matter 2.5 is much smaller in size and a more serious health hazard, but will not necessarily be controlled by the particulate matter 10 limits.

Federal regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, recent court decisions, and even DNR's own regulations require regulation of particulate matter 2.5 and greenhouse gases. And yet, it appears the DNR is not going to require a best-available-control-technology analysis for particulate matter 2.5 and for greenhouse gases.

I don't understand why the DNR would decide against regulating the fine particulate matter produced by this plant, given the proven impact of emissions from coal facilities on public health.

Let's hope Seaman's pessimism turns out to be unfounded.

Speaking of the coal plant, I contacted the Iowa Utilities Board to find out whether its chairman, John Norris, plans to serve out his term, which expires in 2011. (His wife Jackie Norris recently accepted an offer to become First Lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff.) Staff at the Iowa Utilities Board told me Norris has not announced a decision. I will write a separate post for this blog once I hear whether he plans to stay or go.

UPDATE: Thanks to Bleeding Heartland user RF for pointing me to this Des Moines Register article:

Iowa Utilities Board Chairman John Norris, whose wife has been named chief of staff to incoming first lady Michelle Obama, said Monday he is interested in an appointment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Norris, a veteran Democratic campaign operative, said he would consider serving on the commission or as chairman of the agency with jurisdiction over electricity sales, wholesale electric rates and other energy sales regulation. [...]

"It would be fair to say I'm interested in either FERC chairmanship or a commissioner spot," Norris said. "There are other things I'm interested in and the transition team is rightly focused on filling Cabinet posts and putting together an administration. I'm respecting their timetable and would consider whatever position in the administration where I can be most helpful."

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Make utilities do more to save energy

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 02, 2008 at 14:39:45 PM CDT

Alliant Energy, which has an Iowa branch called Interstate Power and Light, wants to build a coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. The utility claims the new plant will be needed to meet energy demand.

However, expert testimony submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board suggests that Alliant/Interstate Power and Light could be doing much more to promote energy efficiency, which is more cost-effective than building new power plants.

Last Friday,

the Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board, by expert witness, Geoff Crandall of MSB Energy Associates, detailing ways to improve the Alliant Energy Efficiency plan.

The details are in the full text of the press release from the Iowa Environmental Council, which I have posted after the jump.

The big problem, according to Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, is this: "Alliant significantly underutilizes energy efficiency measures, as the plan proposes to achieve less than half of the cost-effective potential they, themselves identified as available."

At this blog I've focused on environmental and health reasons not to build more coal-fired power plants, but Baer points out that consumers will also pay more for electricity from new sources of generation. Energy-saving measures are more economical.

The expert testimony submitted by the Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center complements expert testimony filed with the Iowa Utilities Board the same day by Plains Justice on behalf of several grassroots groups. That testimony concluded that "IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs."

I am grateful to all of the non-profit groups that are making this case to the Iowa Utilities Board.

At the same time, I wish the Iowa Utilities Board had rejected the application to build the Marshalltown plant. If that had happened, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

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One more time: we don't need new coal-fired plants

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 11:20:00 AM CDT

This came in from Plains Justice yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 29, 2008      
Contacts:        

Carrie La Seur, Plains Justice (Cedar Rapids), 319-560-4729, claseur AT plainsjustice.org

Chris James, Synapse Energy Economics (Cambridge, MA), 617-861-7484, cjames AT synapse-energy.com

COMMUNITY, FARM AND PUBLIC HEALTH GROUPS FILE EXPERT TESTIMONY THAT BETTER EFFICIENCY PERFORMANCE IS A GENUINE ALTERNATIVE TO COAL

DES MOINES - Today Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based environmental justice law center, filed expert testimony in Interstate Power and Light's energy efficiency planning docket before the Iowa Utilities Board, on behalf of a coalition of Iowa grassroots groups.  The testimony by Synapse Energy Economics concludes that IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs.

Expert witness Christopher James, a former air regulator who helped develop EPA's National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, testifies that "IPL overestimates the costs of energy efficiency, and underestimates the amount of energy efficiency that can be achieved by 2013."  IPL has told the IUB that energy savings of 1.5% annually, the level requested by IUB, would be difficult to achieve.  James concludes that this scenario is "very achievable" and should be pursued.

IPL's energy efficiency planning is the subject of heightened interest because IPL claims that it cannot avoid the need for its proposed 649 MW Marshalltown plant through improved efficiency programming.  According to today's intervenor testimony, IPL's flawed approach to efficiency has led to the conclusion that a new coal plant is needed.  James testifies that IPL could achieve even more than 1.5% annual energy savings by including opportunities IPL has ignored, including combined heat and power at industrial sites like ethanol refineries.

The testimony states that "IPL has ignored some of the benefits of energy efficiency to Iowa's consumers and businesses. These benefits include: deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing generation, deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing transmission lines and distribution system, reducing ratepayer bills, reducing emissions of criteria air pollutants (such as those which contribute to acid rain, smog and haze) and greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing public health costs (from reduced number of asthma cases, visits to emergency rooms, lost productivity at work, etc.)." James recommends that IUB require a revised and more ambitious plan from IPL.

Plains Justice argues that IUB must ensure that IPL has optimized efficiency programming before allowing a new coal plant to be built at a cost of up to $2 billion.  "Approving a coal plant before we've completed an aggressive efficiency planning process is putting the cart before the horse, at ratepayer expense," says Plains Justice President and Founder Carrie La Seur.

Intervenors represented by Plains Justice in this docket are Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.  The intervenors are advocates for clean, community-based energy solutions that minimize the health and environmental impacts of energy production and support local and rural economies.  This intervention is one of a series brought by Plains Justice to promote better energy policy for Iowa on behalf of grassroots Iowa organizations.

The only low point of Barack Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday was this:

As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

There is no such thing as "clean coal." Every new coal-fired power plant is a 50-year investment in the wrong direction. It is unfortunate that our Democratic leaders lack the political courage to embrace an energy policy committed to meeting our needs without expanding our use of coal and nuclear power.

Al Gore laid out how this can be done in a major speech last month. Click the link to find an annotated version of the full transcript.

We can do much more with conservation and energy efficiency measures than the major utility companies acknowledge.

Thanks to Plains Justice and the other non-profit groups that are continuing to push the Iowa Utilities Board in the right direction.

If only the IUB had done the right thing back in April, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Push utilities to do more on energy efficiency

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 30, 2008 at 14:26:02 PM CDT

Yesterday I linked to this article by Joseph Romm in Salon about how efficiency measures could solve many of our energy problems. His piece starts with the following analogy:

Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.

Well, that's pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it's able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.

Yet money invested in energy efficiency can generate huge savings in energy costs. According to a report filed with the Iowa Utilities Board by the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives,

In 2007, Iowa's electric cooperatives, which provide electricity in each of the state's 99 counties to approximately 650,000 Iowans, invested $11 million in energy-efficiency programs. Participation in the programs by electric cooperative member-consumer-owners in 2007 resulted in approximately $30.3 million in energy savings.

There also was an environmental benefit to the investment in energy-efficiency programs. By reducing demand for electricity, consumers reduced the amount of electricity that utilities would otherwise have generated, which would have placed emissions into the air. The energy savings over the life of the energy-efficiency measures installed in 2007 is equal to enough electricity to provide power for approximately 34,000 homes or a city the size of 85,000 people, which is equivalent to Iowa City and Coralville, combined.

The Salon article describes various state regulations that have helped reduce energy consumption in California.

While I would welcome action on that front by the Iowa legislature, it's important to note that state regulators can push utilities to do more even without any new laws being passed.

This week three environmental groups (Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center) submitted expert testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding problems with MidAmerican Energy's efficiency plan for the years 2009-2013. This press release from the Iowa Environmental Council provides more details:

Editors Contact: Lynn Laws
Iowa Environmental Council
515-244-1194, ext 210
lynnlaws@iaenvironment.org

July 29, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MidAm Energy Efficiency Plan Falls Short

Clean energy advocates call MidAmerican Energy's new energy efficiency plan a good start, but note missed opportunities.

"At a time when energy prices are sky rocketing and global warming regulation is looming on the horizon, MidAmerican must take all the cost-effective energy efficiency steps available," said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

"The programs they propose simply don't take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to save money and protect the environment," Baer added.

Environmental advocates submitted testimony Monday responding to MidAmerican's Energy Efficiency Plan for 2009-2013.  Under Iowa law, public gas and electric utilities, including MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy, must create comprehensive plans for energy efficiency for all types of customers.  Programs often include rebates or incentives for energy efficient equipment like advanced lighting, heating and air conditioning systems, insulation, energy efficient buildings, and other types of equipment and technology, as well as customer education. The Iowa Utilities Board must approve these plans, with input from stakeholders provided in a formal proceeding before the Board.

The Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted testimony by expert witness, Geoff Crandall of MSB Energy Associates, yesterday detailing significant shortcomings in the 2009-2013 MidAmerican Energy plan:

-          The plan understates the potential for energy efficiency improvements, especially in the industrial sector, which consumes 50% of the electricity in MidAmerican's service territory;

-          The plan fails to include assistance to help consumers generate their own energy using renewable energy systems such as small solar panels (photovoltaic or "PV"), small wind turbines, and solar hot water heaters.

-          The plan does not incorporate enough next-generation lighting technology such as L.E.D. bulbs.

-          The plan fails to provide adequate funding for public education particularly as, it relates to the high energy needs of plasma TVs and home entertainment systems, and about unplugging appliances that use power even when they have been turned off (known as "phantom load.").

"We can't do this half way.  The end result of failure is billions of dollars spent on new power plants and thousands of tons of pollution," said Wally Taylor, an attorney with the Sierra Club.  

"The Utilities Board has to step up and force MidAmerican to do the best job it can here," he added.

Iowa Utilities Board's decision is due by the end of 2008. -- end --

After the jump you can find contact information for people who can provide copies of this expert testimony.

UPDATE: The Iowa Utilities Board released a statement today urging Iowans to "take steps now to reduce the impacts of increased energy prices this winter heating season":

Many utilities offer cash rebates for the purchase of energy efficient appliances.  Some Iowa utilities, including MidAmerican Energy Company and Interstate Power and Light Company (Alliant Energy), have increased rebate amounts on energy efficient appliance purchases made by flood-affected customers this year, so inquire with your local utility.

Examples of wise energy-efficiency investments, regardless of utility or even manufacturer rebates, include programmable thermostats, high efficiency heating and/or cooling systems, hot water heaters, replacement windows, additional or replacement insulation, washers or dryers, refrigerators, and stoves.  To assure energy efficiency when purchasing new appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label.  More information about the ENERGY STAR program for improving energy efficiency is available at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov.

A simple, short-term step for conserving energy is to adjust your thermostat for sleeping or periods when your home will be unoccupied.  If constantly changing your thermostat is difficult, consider a programmable thermostat.  Another inexpensive step to help mitigate heating costs is to weatherize around leaky windows and doors and on exterior walls in areas that are usually cold or drafty.  Please contact your local utility for additional energy efficiency information in preparation for this winter.

The full text of this press release is after the jump.

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