Posts Tagged ‘MidAmerican Energy’
Pursuit of new nuclear power in Iowa was a bad idea when then governor Tom Vilsack began promoting it, and remains so. MidAmerican Energy’s announcement in the Des Moines Register today, that the utility “has scrapped plans for Iowa’s second nuclear plant and will refund $8.8 million ratepayers paid for a now-finished feasibility study,” was welcomed by people throughout the state. In the end, talk about nuclear power was a weird combination of the vaporous breath of politicians combined with a financially stable and well capitalized public utility owned by one of the richest men on the planet. The discussion Vilsack started is over for now.
In an email to members, Dianne Glenney, co-founder and communications contact for the grassroots organization S.A.F.E. (Saving America’s Farmland and Environment) wrote, “we have learned more about the dangers of nuclear energy than we ever wanted to know. But, we are much better informed now and an informed citizenry is primed to be a watchdog for future happenings, to report issues when they happen, and to take action.” While S.A.F.E. came into being only after the utility’s planned sites for a new nuclear power plant were recently announced in Muscatine and Fremont counties, Glenney’s words summed up the four-year process that stopped MidAmerican’s nuclear ambitions. Knowledge is power, and by 2013, the Iowa electorate had been educated about nuclear power.
As always, there is more to the story.
The idea that there was a nuclear renaissance in the United States was a product of the imagination of politicians, the nuclear industry, corporate media and the richest Americans. The nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan on March 11, 2011 brought the risks of nuclear power to the public’s attention. Shortly after the earthquake and tsunami that caused the failures, MidAmerican Energy’s Bill Fehrman asserted in an Iowa Senate Commerce Committee meeting that small modular reactors would solve some of the problems of Fukushima. The public wasn’t buying it, at least to the extent that they would support the legislation Fehrman said was necessary for the utility to get the financial backing of Wall Street to build a new nuclear power generating station. In today’s announcement, MidAmerican conceded that lack of an approved plan for a small modular reactor was problematic, citing as one of the reasons for pulling the plug, “there is no approved design for the modular nuclear plant it envisioned.”
A final decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny a license to the Calvert Cliffs III nuclear reactor, slated for southern Maryland, is evidence that if there was a nuclear renaissance, it may be over from an NRC perspective.
Another part of the story is the abundance of natural gas resulting from increased exploration and discover using the hydraulic fracturing process. With the cost of natural gas going down, interest in more expensive nuclear power is waning. It is important that MidAmerican Energy noted the potential regulation of carbon as an impediment to building a natural gas power generating station, something that did not stop Alliant Energy from seeking approval for such a plant in Marshalltown.
The current solution to the radioactive nuclear waste produced by nuclear power generating stations is no solution at all. The plan is to store it on sites where it is generated until the federal government figures out what to do with it. Reasonable people can’t seriously consider adding new nuclear power capacity until this long standing deficiency is addressed.
Dianne Glenney of S.A.F.E. wrote last night, “no one should have to live under the strain of a potential nuclear power plant in their neighborhood, community, state and/or country. Someone is always downwind of every nuclear plant.” Now enough Iowans know this. Let’s hope we don’t forget.
Does Tom Vilsack’s 2007 consulting agreement with MidAmerican Energy matter any more? It does, but not in the way conservative pundits characterized it, as a form of political corruption, after President Obama appointed Vilsack to his current job as secretary of agriculture.
The case can be made that beginning in 2003, then governor Tom Vilsack was a driver in governmental policy that created a regulatory environment for Iowa’s growth in renewable energy. Particularly in wind powered electricity generation. MidAmerican Energy was a key partner with Iowa government in developing wind farms in Carroll and Crawford Counties, and in other parts of the state. Most people agree, wind energy, along with ethanol production and biofuels development, have been good for Iowa. Vilsack should be given credit for his policy contributions to the development of Iowa’s renewable energy capacity.
At the same time, Vilsack was promoting all forms of electricity generation in Iowa, so the state could become a net exporter of the commodity. His advocacy for coal, natural gas and nuclear power generation is often forgotten, and resulted in a favorable regulatory environment for utilities to consider, and in some cases, build new coal and natural gas fired power plants. The release of CO2 pollution into the atmosphere by these new plants contributes to warming the planet and the liability of its climatic consequences. Tom Vilsack gets some of the blame.
Vilsack’s consulting relationship with MidAmerican Energy was said to help the company develop renewable energy sources, but it would be naive to believe the conversations he had with his client did not include coal, natural gas, nuclear and other sources of energy, especially since Vilsack made an issue of them as governor.
Why would Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy pursue the legislative changes required in Iowa to make an investment in nuclear power more palatable to Wall Street investors? It is because Tom Vilsack started the conversation. His Oct. 12, 2006 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is evidence of this. Vilsack said,
“In the last seven and a half years we’ve had six new power plants built, some of them state-of-the-art coal and natural gas facilities. We have embraced renewable energy and have now become the number one state in the country for wind energy per capita. And we, of course, have expanded dramatically our interest in ethanol and soy diesel, to the point where the state of Iowa is now the number one producer of each.
And we’ve been able to do this by working with the private marketplace and private sector in partnership. We changed regulations to provide greater stability for our utility companies so that they make the billions of dollars of investment to build new plants.”
If we consider HF 561, an act relating to the permitting, licensing, construction, and operation of nuclear generation facilities, from Iowa’s 84th General Assembly, the legislature attempted to do exactly what Vilsack said in 2006 was the intent, to provide a regulatory environment to attract investment money in new nuclear power plants. From the CFR speech,
We should take a look at the long-term impact of nuclear. […] we ought to be looking at ways in which either the risk (of nuclear waste) can be matched with opportunities that folks are looking for, or that we can create a compensation system that makes it easier for people to assume and accept that risk.
Vilsack sought to open a door that was closed for decades with regard to new nuclear power and its radioactive waste. He started the conversation. When the people of Iowa saw how the conversation would develop, that the high risks of nuclear power would be borne by rate payers so that Wall Street would invest, they saw through MidAmerican’s ploy and rejected the changes proposed by the legislature.
By then, Tom Vilsack was in Washington, but his energy legacy lived on back in Iowa.
Nuclear Power Plant in Muscatine County???
Wilton Community Center, 1215 Cypress Street Wilton, IA
Check out Say ‘NO’ to nuclear power in Muscatine County Iowa Facebook page:
*This issue will affect every community in Muscatine, Cedar, Scott, and Rock Island Counties*
In November of last year, MidAmerican Energy held a private meeting with owners of land adjacent to a proposed site for a new nuclear or natural gas power plant southeast of Wilton. It was closed to the public and the news media. As people who live in the community whithin the evacuation zone of this plant, we distributed a petition asking for the same courtesy to have an opportunity to see MidAmerican’s presentation and ask our questions. The petition was sent to MidAmerican with 275 signatures from Wilton, Muscatine, Durant and surrounding communities. MidAmerican has agreed to send a representative to our meeting.
MidAmerican will give a presentation on the proposed plant, and audience members will be able to ask questions and make comments. Representatives from the Muscatine, Cedar, and Scott County Board of Supervisors will be present.
Elected officials will share their comments.
Seating is limited, we recommend that you arrive early. Doors open at 6:00pm
For those unable to attend, the meeting will be recorded by MCC for rebroadcast on Muscatine Power & Water Digital TV Channel 9. Check their schedule for date and time.
This meeting is hosted by S.A.F.E (Saving America’s Farm Ground and Environment)
The location of the proposed new nuke is:
150th St & Sweetland Rd
Muscatine IA 52761
For more information, visit: Say ‘NO’ to nuclear power in Muscatine County Iowa Facebook page
DES MOINES, Iowa– On Jan. 22, the Sierra Club and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to phase out coal burning at seven coal-fired boilers, clean up another two coal-fired boilers and build a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The announcement also pushes the total amount of coal generation retired or announced to retire since 2010 to over 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation’s coal fleet.
In 2012, the Sierra Club notified MidAmerican that it was violating the federal Clean Air Act at its Walter Scott, Riverside and George Neal coal plants, by emitting more pollution than allowed by its permits. Today’s settlement filed in federal court in Iowa resolves those allegations. According to the Clean Air Task Force air pollution from these three plants contributes to 45 deaths and 760 asthma attacks annually.
“Clean air, clean water and a booming clean energy economy are part of an Iowa legacy that I am proud to leave for my children and grandchildren,” said Pam Mackey Taylor, Chapter Energy Chair of the Sierra Club in Iowa. “Coal’s days are numbered here in Iowa. Pollution from MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants causes major health problems in communities across Iowa. Retiring units at these coal plants and installing vital pollution controls at the remaining units will help Iowans breathe easier.”
DES MOINES — AARP leaders are taking on MidAmerican Energy false portrayal of the Association’s position on nuclear power and attempts to shift away the focus from what HF 561 really does in their ads. AARP doesn’t oppose nuclear power, but does oppose changing Iowa law to favor utility company and shareholder interests over Iowa’s ratepaying consumers.
“MidAmerican’s ironically titled ‘Straight Talk’ ads misrepresented AARP’s position on HF 561 and hid the truth about what HF 561 actually does”, said Anthony Carroll, AARP Iowa Associate State Director for Advocacy. “The ads stated that AARP is an opponent of nuclear power. That is an outright lie, just the beginning a new campaign by MidAmerican to fool Iowans into favoring HF 561. Iowans deserve better than to be fooled.”
Carroll explained that AARP has consistently stated in testimony before House and Senate Commerce Committees, in AARP mail and e-mail correspondence with lawmakers, AARP members and Iowans, and in AARP editorials and paid ads, AARP is NOT opposed to nuclear power.
“The question of whether to build a new nuclear power plant is in MidAmerican’s hands,” said Carroll. “It is critical to note, they can build a plant without HF 561. The question for lawmakers is whether to shift nearly all the one-billion to several billions in costs and risks associated with new plants from the company to its customers. That is what AARP opposes. That is what HF 561 does, according to the Iowa Utility Board staff memo. ”
AARP Iowa Executive Council Member Sharon Treinen of Ackley and a shareholder of MidAmerican’s parent company Berkshire Hathaway said, “I take no comfort in knowing HF 561 guarantees a profit for me as shareholder. As a utility customer in Iowa, I oppose HF 561. I’d rather not pay on the front end as a ratepayer, just so I can benefit as a shareholder. I feel very fortunate that my husband and I were able to save so that we have some stock investments, but, I’m even more concerned about the many elderly and other Iowans on fixed incomes.
According to recent reports, Treinen said nearly a quarter million Iowa households, about 224,000, are behind on their utility bills and therefore face potential shut offs as of April 1, the day Iowa’s winter utility shut-off moratorium ends.
State President Tony Vola, also a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder, said HF 561 violates the common sense rule. “I live by the common sense rule. HF 561 shifts the billon-plus costs and profit-making aspects of building a new power plant from the company and shareholders to customers. I choose to spend my money to be a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, but under HF 561, I and other Iowa utility customers would have no choice but to pay advance costs – which have always ballooned in other states – and a profit, for a long, expensive investment, even if this project goes bust.”
“AARP is fighting for a better deal for Iowa utility customers who bear the upfront costs and risk, and MidAmerican is fighting for their shareholders, for the great deal that HF 561 provides to them,” said Carroll. “We hope lawmakers side with customers, not with big business and company shareholders.”
Two letters in the Des Moines Register are right on target about the bill now being considered in the Iowa legislature (House File 561) that will force taxpayers to fund a MidAmerican Energy study to assess the feasibility of a nuclear power plant that may never be built.
Contact your legislator today if you oppose this bill.
Contact Sen. Matt McCoy: Cell Phone: 515.681.9327 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Governor Branstad: Phone: 515.281.5211
Who is state Sen. Matt McCoy, chairperson of the Senate Commerce Committee?
He is surprisingly insensitive and lacking in compassion, pushing MidAmerican Energy’s nuclear power bill, House File 561, while the world is grieving over Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. Japan lost 7 million acres of mostly agricultural land.
McCoy seems unaware that a 2011 fire at the Fort Calhoun reactor bordering Iowa in Nebraska is labeled a “serious threat” by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and that the plant is still not operating. It was headlines the same day that McCoy’s committee sent HF561 to full Senate debate.
Has he been informed that the Register is pleading for Iowa to first find out if people want nuclear power, then work on the financing?
Why is he ignoring Iowa as a top producer of wind electricity in the U.S. with the potential of providing all of Iowa’s electrical needs if only we transmitted it to where it’s needed?
McCoy was recently quoted saying, “If the proposed deal lacks broad support from both parties, Democrats will not call it up for debate.” Perhaps he and others have missed the Senate switchboard calls running hundreds opposing for every one call in favor of HF 561.
McCoy portrayed this bill as “setting Iowa’s energy policy for the next 50-100 years.” He’s right. Going nuclear is the most expensive. Besides, with MidAmerican guaranteed a large rate of return, and with the customers forced to pay upfront, chances for the alternatives are wiped out.
What a looming tragedy for Iowa.
— Jane E. Magers, Des Moines
Regardless of whether Iowans support nuclear power, the current nuclear ratepayer financing proposal in the Iowa Legislature (House File 561) would be a financial disaster for consumers and the state.
The bill would shift the severe financial risks associated with nuclear plants from the owners of a utility to utility customers.
HF 561 would allow MidAmerican Energy to recover the costs of licensing, permitting and constructing a nuclear plant from its customers as it incurs those costs, rather than waiting until the plant is put in operation — as has been done with every other Iowa power plant. Although there have been claims recently about amendments to the bill that allegedly protect consumers, none affect this fundamental change in state law.
Why is this radical departure from current law being proposed?
Wall Street won’t invest in nuclear plants. It is too risky. That is why MidAmerican wants the Legislature to shift the risk onto customers. But if nuclear is too risky for investors on Wall Street, then it is too risky for utility customers, working families, farmers, small businesses, and seniors on fixed incomes.
Customers should not be forced to pay billions for nuclear licensing, permitting and construction. Customers should pay for electricity generated, not risky investments.
Nuclear plants are well known for years of delay and billion-dollar cost overruns. No new nuclear plant has been built in this country since the 1970s. In fact, more than half of the 259 nuclear plants ever ordered in this country were either cancelled before operation or prematurely shut down.
If the plant proposed by MidAmerican were cancelled or shut down, there would be no refund to customers, yet MidAmerican would be allowed to keep its profits on the money spent and recovered from customers. MidAmerican will profit from simply trying to build a nuclear plant, something that would take years to accomplish and may never be finished.
Nuclear would not help Iowa’s economy. Nuclear proposals require expensive out-of-state consultants for design, licensing, and permitting. These costs alone could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The size and cost of state government — again paid for by customers — would be forced to grow just so state agencies could review any proposal.
MidAmerican’s proposed small modular nuclear reactor would not produce any more electricity than a small modular biomass, biogas or cogeneration power plant — all of which can be built without the severe financial risk of nuclear.
Polls show that more than 70 percent of Iowans oppose House File 561. Now is the time for Iowans to stand up and make their voices heard. Iowans should call their state legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad and ask them to say no to House File 561.
— State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids
DES MOINES – On Tuesday, March 20, State Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) and State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) will travel to five major communities served by MidAmerican Energy to warn of higher utility bills if House File 561 is approved. Under the bill, customers would likely pay hundreds of millions in higher utility bills for the licensing, permitting, and construction of a nuclear plant regardless of whether the plant ever produces any electricity.
Tuesday, March 20 Details
9:00 a.m. – Bolkcom and Hogg in Des Moines, Room 116, State Capitol
1:00 p.m. – Hogg in Sioux City, The Wilbur Aalfs (Main) Library, Gleeson Room, 529 Pierce Street
4:00 p.m. – Hogg in Fort Dodge, Fort Dodge Area Senior Center, 617 Central Avenue
11:30 a.m. – Bolkcom in Iowa City, Iowa City Public Library, Room D
2:30 p.m. – Bolkcom in Davenport, Davenport Public Library, Main Branch, Downtown