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Nuclear Power Bill to be Considered by Commerce Committee on March 8

Nuclear Power? No Thanks

Mike Glover of the Associated Press is retiring in May, and the work must get easier as his last day as a State Capitol reporter approaches. For example, Glover could phone it in and run a story similar to the one he ran January 25 to cover yesterday’s events at the capitol:

“A key lawmaker says a measure allowing MidAmerican Energy to charge customers for the cost of a nuclear power plant before construction is complete has enough support in the Legislature to become law.

Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is planning a Thursday subcommittee meeting on the topic and expects his committee to approve a bill…”

Mike Glover and Sen. Rob Hogg

We were attending an event to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, hosted by Senator Robb Hogg. Three speakers, representing Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club presented lessons learned from Fukushima and why they believe adding additional nuclear power in Iowa is a bad idea for environmental reasons. Glover took a front row seat, was in and out of the meeting, and after the event, said what we had already heard, that the Senate commerce committee is scheduled to discuss the nuclear power bill, HF 561, Thursday, March 8 at 1 p.m.9:30 a.m., although something has changed.

While Glover was popping in and out of the meeting, he was confirming that a deal had been reached on the nuclear power bill, and you can read his story here. It is a different story than I expected, and it is fair to say Glover continues to be a solid reporter. It’s good to know there are still some of those around.

There is said to be an amendment that eliminates the advanced rate making and spreads the cost of building a new nuclear reactor over 60 years, once it starts generating power. If this is correct, it may address some of the concerns of citizen groups like AARP, making the bill more palatable to some senators. Depending on the actual language, it could mean trouble for people who balance a checkbook, live paycheck to paycheck and are customers of a public utility.

There is much we don’t know about Tuesday’s new deal, but a central question should be answered by lawmakers before proceeding to a vote on such an amendment or the bill. Would the bill make sense to someone sitting at a kitchen table balancing a household budget? If we add up the interest on a construction loan amortized over 60 years, how much more would rate payers pay in interest charges compared to an advanced rate recovery scenario? There are too many unanswered questions to come up with solid numbers, but suffice it to say it would be a lot more.

It makes no more sense for legislators to keep this bill alive now, than it did last year. There is too much that is unknown about the deal Glover reported. There is new information coming forward that could change public opinion about the bill. The Senate committee should delay the bill so all the details can see the light of day. Every time we shine a light on a bill being rushed through the legislative process, the result of backroom deals, citizens benefit.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of these back room deals when the legislature is supposed to be working for us.

Please take a few minutes to contact your state senator and ask him or her to vote no on HF 561. Click here for your senator’s contact information.

UPDATE March 7, 10:55 a.m.: The amendment to the bill has been released and, nothing of substance has changed with regard to the original HF 561. It does not include any terms regarding the term for repayment of construction costs by investors as suggested above. More evidence that the light of day needs to shine on a bill that favors something three out of four Iowans do not want. PD.

~ Paul Deaton lives in rural Iowa and is a regular contributor to Blog for Iowa

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