New GOP bill would slash energy programs for low-income Iowans

Energy-efficiency programs that benefit low-income Iowans would be cut under a bill Republicans advanced today from an Iowa Senate subcommittee.

Senate Study Bill 1256 would compound the harm done by Senate File 2311, which Republicans enacted in 2018 over objections from many stakeholders. Whereas last year’s bill reduced utility companies’ required spending on energy efficiency programs with a 25-year track record, the new bill would limit allowable spending on such programs.

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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Farewell, Vern Johnson

Ed Fallon remembers an Iowa farmer who fought “to the end” to stop his land from being taken for a pipeline. -promoted by Laura Belin

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, April 7. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

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When politicians become assignment editors

For many years, the Des Moines Register regularly published dispatches from Washington on what the Iowans in Congress were doing. Coverage deteriorated after the newspaper laid off Jane Norman in 2008. To my knowledge, no Iowa-based news organization has had a correspondent in the nation’s capital since the Register let Philip Brasher go in 2011.

In a wide-ranging review of the Register’s political reporting four years ago, I commented, “If a member of Congress didn’t brag about it in a press release, conference call, or social media post, the Register’s readers are not likely ever to learn that it happened.”

The newspaper’s recent coverage of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley illustrates that problem.

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MidAmerican’s actions speak louder than words on clean energy

Longtime renewable energy advocate Mike Carberry weighs in on MidAmerican’s bad solar bill, which has cleared the Iowa Senate and is eligible for debate in the state House. -promoted by Laura Belin

MidAmerican Energy has become the public face of Iowa’s clean energy leadership, touting its “climate pledge” and “bold vision” for 100 percent renewable energy future. But the company’s legislative work in Des Moines raises serious questions about its loyalties to clean energy consumers.

Last year, MidAmerican actively worked to gut energy efficiency funding and programming that saved customers millions of dollars. Now the company is trying to stomp out the Iowa solar industry, which it apparently views as competition.

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MidAmerican's bid to crush small solar creates strange lobbying bedfellows

MidAmerican Energy’s effort to crush small-scale solar generation made it through the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” and will be eligible for floor debate in both chambers. The House Commerce Committee on March 4 approved House Study Bill 185 (now renamed House File 669) without amendment on a party-line 12 to 10 vote. The Senate Commerce Committee amended the companion Senate Study Bill 1201 before advancing it on March 7.

The bill will likely pass the upper chamber, where Republicans have a 32 to 17 majority. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats by 54 to 46 in the House, and MidAmerican’s political action committee donated to dozens of incumbents’ campaigns last year, getting the solar bill through the lower chamber will be no easy task. A utility-backed bill to undercut energy efficiency programs was one of the heaviest lifts during the 2018 session. Only after several concessions did supporters cobble together 52 Republican votes in the House. The GOP held 59 seats at that time.

More than three dozen corporations, industry groups, or advocacy organizations have lobbyists registered for or against MidAmerican’s solar bill. While it’s not unusual for a high-profile bill to draw that kind of attention, the two camps seeking to persuade legislators on this issue reflect alliances rarely seen at the statehouse.

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