Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Energy and environment

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

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)

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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Latest Obama cabinet appointments: Energy and EPA

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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