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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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MidAmerican drops plans for nuclear power plant (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 08:15:00 AM CDT

Bullet dodged: MidAmerican Energy announced yesterday that it will not pursue plans to build a new nuclear power plant in Iowa. Details are in this front-page story in today's Des Moines Register. MidAmerican was conducting a three-year feasibility study (paid for by its customers) and had considered sites in Fremont and Muscatine counties for a nuclear power plant. However, utility officials determined that federal officials have not approved the modular design MidAmerican wanted to build. (They can't say they weren't warned.)

I encourage you to click through and read the whole Register article by Perry Beeman and William Petroski. Excerpts are after the jump. Thanks to the environmental organizations and AARP, which fought MidAmerican's efforts to bill ratepayers in advance for building a nuclear power plant. Legislation toward that end cleared the Iowa House in 2011 and an Iowa Senate committee the following year but never came up for a vote in the full Senate amid strong Democratic opposition.

Last month MidAmerican announced a planned $1.9 billion investment in wind energy, which "will add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation and up to 656 new wind turbines in Iowa by year-end 2015."

UPDATE: MidAmerican's feasibility study is online here (pdf). The company's official statement and excerpts from Dar Danielson's report for Radio Iowa are now after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Added local reaction from Joe Jarosz's report for the Muscatine Journal.

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IA-01: Swati Dandekar speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 07:55:00 AM CDT

Former State Representative and State Senator Swati Dandekar is reportedly considering a bid for the open first Congressional district seat.  
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Latest Obama cabinet appointments: Energy and EPA

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 07:10:00 AM CST

President Barack Obama announced two new cabinet appointments yesterday: Ernest Moniz as secretary of Energy and Gina McCarthy as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Moniz and McCarthy here; I've added more information after the jump.

McCarthy has served as the EPA's top air quality official since 2009. Because she is well-qualified for the position and committed to making the country's air cleaner, environmentalists are excited about this choice. I hope that Obama is not merely "promoting a climate change champion" to soften the blow when he approves the KeystoneXL pipeline. The State Department's draft report on KeystoneXL whitewashed the impact that project would have on the environment.  

Also yesterday, Obama formally nominated Sylvia Matthews Burwell to be the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. The White House announcement notes, "She served as Deputy Director of the OMB from 1998 to 2001, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration." UPDATE: I should have added that Burwell is a former president of the Gates Foundation's Global Development Program, and that her most recent job was running the Wal-Mart Foundation.

The president has not yet announced his picks to run the departments of Labor, Transportation, or Commerce.

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Weekend open thread: Frightening news

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:42:06 AM CST

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

To get the conversation started, I've posted some scary or disturbing news after the jump.

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Iowa Congressional voting on the environment: Not a pretty picture

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:55:00 AM CST

The future of Iowa's Congressional representation is not encouraging, judging from the latest League of Conservation Voters' scorecard.
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MidAmerican reveals possible sites for nuclear plant in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 11:45:07 AM CDT

MidAmerican Energy is considering two possible locations for a new nuclear reactor in Iowa, Perry Beeman reported for the Des Moines Register on Friday.
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Governor Branstad, you cannot be serious

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Three days after proudly announcing the largest set of tax incentives Iowa has ever offered to a corporation, Governor Terry Branstad criticized President Barack Obama's "penchant for trying to pick winners and losers in the marketplace."
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Does public safety depend on nearby nightmare scenario?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 08:50:00 AM CDT

Here's a lede I didn't expect to read in any newspaper: "It can be good to have a nuclear power plant nearby if you have a flood disaster."
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How the Iowans voted on the Defense Authorization Act

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:54:17 AM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, the U.S. House approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. Details on how Iowa's five representatives vote on that bill and on important amendments are after the jump.

I also enclose the statements released by members of Iowa's Congressional delegation. Not surprisingly, several self-styled deficit hawks bragged about supporting a bill that prohibits various cost-saving measures and mandates spending on some items the military doesn't even want.

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Good news on energy in final days of Iowa legislative session

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 10, 2012 at 11:12:10 AM CDT

UPDATE: Governor Branstad signed Senate File 2342 on May 25.

Iowa lawmakers always cram so much action into the last few days of the legislative session. Instead of writing one long news roundup on the final decisions by the Iowa House and Senate, I'm covering specific issues in separate Bleeding Heartland posts this year.

Rod Boshart posted a good, comprehensive list here on what bills did and didn't pass during the 2012 legislative session. Follow me after the jump for details on a good renewable energy bill, which made it through at the eleventh hour, and some thoughts on the nuclear power bill, which for the second year in a row didn't make it to the Iowa Senate floor.

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Opponents of nuclear bill draft slew of pro-consumer amendments

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 29, 2012 at 12:12:00 PM CDT

Democratic opponents of a bill designed to promote nuclear power in Iowa have drafted a dozen amendments to House file 561, in case the bill comes up for debate in the Iowa Senate. The bill squeaked through the Iowa Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month. After the jump I've posted summaries of the proposed amendments, which would strengthen consumer protections and possibly deter MidAmerican Energy from pursuing a new nuclear reactor project.
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Iowa legislature post-funnel news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 18, 2012 at 19:35:00 PM CDT

The Iowa legislature's second "funnel" deadline passed on Friday, which means that most non-appropriations bills are dead unless they have been approved in one chamber and in at least one committee in the other chamber. It's time to catch up on the most significant bills being debated in the Iowa House and Senate.
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Iowa Senate Commerce Committee clears pro-nuclear bill

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 06:25:00 AM CDT

Republicans saved the day for Iowa Senate Commerce Committee Chair Matt McCoy, providing most of the votes he needed to drag the nuclear energy bill over the line on Tuesday.
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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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Nuclear power in Iowa links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 09:01:08 AM CDT

Expanding nuclear power is again a hot topic at the Iowa statehouse. It's not clear whether Iowa Senate Commerce Committee Chair Matt McCoy can find the votes he needs to advance House File 561. McCoy announced last week that new language in the bill would protect consumers and satisfy a majority of his committee members. However, opponents say the changes address only one of many problems in a bill that would primarily benefit MidAmerican Energy at the expense of its ratepayers. McCoy was forced to delay consideration of House File 561 on March 8, but he is expected to bring up the bill before his committee sometime this week--if he has the votes.

Follow me after the jump for analysis on the prospects for passing House File 561 and the merits of the bill.

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IA-04: A closer look at Christie Vilsack's energy plan

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 07:43:24 AM CST

Christie Vilsack toured Iowa's new fourth Congressional district late last week to roll out an energy plan "geared towards bringing a new prosperity to Iowa's small cities and rural communities by creating layers of economic opportunity."

The five-point plan is more of a political statement than a detailed policy document. Like some of Vilsack's previous proposals, it embraces some Republican talking points.

Upon closer examination, the energy plan looks like two parts bipartisan no-brainers, two parts conservative buzzwords, and one part fairy dust.

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Register poll casts doubt on gas tax hike, pro-nuclear bills

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 19:44:51 PM CST

The Des Moines Register's latest statewide poll conducted by Selzer & Co included more than a dozen questions about issues Iowa legislators are considering this session. Proposals to raise the gasoline tax and allow a large utility company to bill its customers up front for a nuclear power plant were among the most unpopular ideas polled.
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Iowa legislature 2012 opening day linkfest

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 09:00:25 AM CST

The Iowa legislature's 2012 session begins today with several major policy reforms on the agenda. Making progress on even one of those issues would be daunting under any circumstances, but particularly during an election year when different parties control the Iowa House and Senate. Lots of links are after the jump.
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