Iowa House panel advances bill to reduce reports for coal plants
Coal power plants like this one are being phased out slowly in Iowa in favor of wind turbines. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice)
An Iowa House subcommittee advanced a bill Tuesday that would eliminate a requirement for electric utilities to submit biennial reports about their plans to control emissions from coal-powered plants.
House Study Bill 73 is identical to one that got preliminary approval from a Senate subcommittee earlier this month. It would make optional the multiyear plans for managing emissions that are currently required every two years. Such projects can increase the utility rates for customers.
Onnalee Gettler, who lobbies for MidAmerican Energy, the predominant owner of coal plants in Iowa, said infrastructure investments for coal have waned as the company has shifted to wind energy, which lessens the need for regular reports.
“And so 24 months is just unnecessary regulatory burden for us,” she said.
Electric utilities operate as monopolies in Iowa, and their infrastructure projects and rates are overseen by the Iowa Utilities Board to help keep costs low for consumers.
Bob Rafferty, a lobbyist for Future Energy Iowa, which promotes electricity production from environmentally friendly sources, said the regular reports are important for that oversight. Rafferty also favored a Senate bill that would enhance the reporting requirements, but the bill did not get enough support to advance from a subcommittee last week.
“What we need to do is make sure that the Iowa Utilities Board has the tools and the statutory code to support, so that they can make the best decisions for the ratepayers,” he said during the Tuesday subcommittee meeting.
Another MidAmerican lobbyist said last week the stalled Senate proposal is meant to give more ammunition to those who want to shutter the state’s coal plants. Gettler said the company plans to cease its use of coal by 2049.
The House bill advanced with Republican support on Tuesday.
“I do believe that we need to ease burdensome regulatory regulations,” said Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake.
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