Iowa GOP Lawmakers Push to Block Eminent Domain for Wind Farms


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | August 3, 2020

Three GOP members of a legislative rules review committee are looking to block the Iowa Utilities Board’s move to allow developers to condemn property for wind and solar farms.

Sens. Waylon Brown, Zach Whiting and Mark Costello announced their opposition Friday. They believe that the rules giving the Iowa Utilities Board jurisdiction over the siting of renewable energy facilities and the state the ability to overrule local zoning to allow developers to condemn private property for approved projects are administrative overreach, according to an Iowa Capital Dispatch article.

Some wind companies raised concerns over changing policy that has enabled an economic surge in the past. They also worry that some projects already underway could be stalled. Midamerican Energy, however, testified that the rule should include eminent domain if the state is going to govern siting.

The controversial rule has split environmentalists. Some believe it will help to push renewable energy development forward, but others worry that it could increase development time and cost. If the committee approves a session delay, the Iowa legislature will have the chance to consider the rule before it takes effect.

The Iowa Utilities Board Approves the Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission Line for Renewable Energy


Image via Flickr

Nicole Welle | June 1, 2020

The Iowa Utilities Board issued an order approving the Iowa portion of the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission line last week.

This line will increase the amount of renewable energy able to access the power grid in the Midwest. The line will stretch approximately 102 miles from Dane County, Wisconsin to Dubuque County, Iowa and cross the Mississippi River. The Iowa side of the line is about 14 miles long, according to an ATC news release.

These improvements to the power grid will increase service reliability, enable the expansion of wind energy in the Midwest and provide economic benefits to the state of Iowa. It will also allow over 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy to enter the grid, and the subsequent expansion of wind energy in the state will increase land lease payments to farmers and revenue to local governments, according to an Iowa Environmental Council news release.

The line’s Mississippi River crossing raised some concerns over impacts on fish and other wildlife. However, the necessary regulatory approvals have been obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and those in charge of the project kept environmental impacts in mind when choosing the location of the crossing.

Construction of the line will begin in the spring of 2021, and it is set to go into service in 2023.

Dakota Access Pipeline to double its oil under Iowa


Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 8.31.26 PM
The path of the Dakota Access Pipeline (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Julia Poska | March 30, 2020

Oil flowing under Iowa through the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline will soon double, as permitted by the Iowa Utilities Board Friday.

Where there were previously 550,000 barrels of oil daily, there will be 1.1 million barrels,  according to the Des Moines Register.  The Register reported that the state determined risk of increased spill probability or volume to be low.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which carries oil from the Dakotas to Illinois, was heavily protested in 2016 and 2017 by the Standing Rock Sioux and allies. Critics feared that the pipeline, which passes under the Missouri River, would contaminate water supplies on the Standing Rock Reservation.

The Iowa Utilities Board order occurred two days after a federal judge on Wednesday ordered a major environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline to more thoroughly assess risk of environmental contamination.

 

Iowa to Illinois wind energy project faces setback


Wind turbines on a snowy Iowa field. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)
Wind turbines on a snowy Iowa field. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | January 13, 2016

A project that would transport wind energy generated in Iowa to Illinois faced a setback this week after the Iowa Utilities Board voted against splitting the case into two separate hearings.

The Iowa Utilities Board on Monday voted 3-0 against a third request by Clean Line Energy Partners – the company behind the $2 billion project – to split the case into two separate hearings. Proponents of the project argue that two separate hearings would give them more time to discuss approval of the project itself as well as the use of eminent domain to complete it while opponents cite that separate hearings would be more burdensome for landowners and others involved.

Cary Kottler – Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Clean Line Energy Partners – told Midwest Energy News earlier this month that the project probably wont happen “if all the right-of-way has to be acquired before the route is approved.”

State law and regulations by the Iowa Utilities Board require that approval of a project as well as approval to use eminent domain must be decided in a single proceeding. Clean Energy Partners has received approval from approximately 15 percent of affected landowners but will not seek approval from additional landowners until it works through the procedural issues.

The proposed Rock Island Clean Line would take energy generated by wind turbines in northwest Iowa and transport it to a converter station outside of Chicago. The company expects the line will provide enough energy to power 1.4 million homes.

Iowa lawmakers call for environmental review of Bakken oil pipeline project


Pump jacks on the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota (A.G. McCullian/Fickr).
Pump jacks on the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota (A.G. McCullian/Fickr)

Nick Fetty | March 12, 2015

Fifteen members of Iowa’s House of Representatives are asking the Iowa Utilities Board to conduct an independent environmental review of the proposed Bakken oil pipeline project which if approved would run approximately 1,100 miles through 17 Iowa counties.

The lawmakers requested the review among concerns about pipeline accidents that have occurred in several states including Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Texas. The letter outlined “eight concerns raised by citizens they feel should be investigated.”

1. Safety risks and hazards associated with the product(s) to be transported through the pipeline;

2. Potential damage to water, land, soil, water, air and wildlife/wildlife habitat during construction;

3. Threats to the environment, farmland, wildlife and public health as a result of spills or explosions;

4. Spill prevention and clean up provisions;

5. Liability for damages to both public and private property and sufficiency of resources to cover such liability;

6. Adequacy of inspection/monitoring/enforcement mechanisms and resources;

7. Responsibility for planning, training, and equipping for emergency response;

8. Indirect impacts of the oil extraction process facilitated by the pipeline that may affect public health and safety as well as environmental security.

Representatives who signed the letter include: Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines), Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids), Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines), Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa), Curt Hanson (D-Fairfield), Greg Heartsill (R-Melcher-Dalls), Charles Isenhart (D-Dubuque), Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton), Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk), Dan Kelley (D-Newton), Bob Kressig (D-Cedar Falls), Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City), Zach Nunn (R-Altoona), Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City), and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames).

A recent Des Moines Register poll found that 57 percent of Iowans surveyed were in favor of the Bakken pipeline project.

Proposed oil pipeline would run through 16 Iowa counties


Nick Fetty | July 10, 2014

An oil pipeline in Alaska. Photo by Sebastian Saarloos; flickr
An oil pipeline in Alaska.
Photo by Sebastian Saarloos; flickr

An 1,100-mile underground pipeline would run from Lyon County in the northwest corner of Iowa to Lee County in the southeast if it properly clears hurdles by various regulatory groups.

Energy Transfer Partners L.P. – a Dallas, Texas-based company – has yet to file a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board for regulatory review though hopes to meet with officials to discuss state requirements. The pipeline is expected to carry about 320,000 barrels of crude oil through 17 counties in the state each day.

This proposal comes on the heels of a booming oil production sector in North Dakota, particularly the Bakken region, which creates more than 1 million barrels per day. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies are often used to procure the oil. Environmentalists and other groups have been skeptical of these methods which have had adverse consciences in several instances.

Fright trains currently transport oil through nine counties in the northwest and northeast corners of the state. In 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic. Crude oil drilled in North Dakota’s Bakken region is considered “more flammable than other oil” which prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement stricter regulations with the transportation of the substance.

Energy Transfer Partners’ Board of Directors has already approved plans for the 30-inch diameter pipeline and expects operations to begin by the end of 2016.

Edit: Post originally stated that the pipeline would pass through 17 Iowa counties.

Iowa Utilities Board opens inquiry, seeks public comment on distributed generation in Iowa


Photo by Will Foster; Flickr

The Iowa Utilities Board has opened a notice of inquiry (NOI) proceeding to gather information related to policy and technical issues associated with distributed generation, which is an approach that employs various technologies for power generation closer to the point of consumption. Continue reading

Environmental groups say Interstate Power’s energy efficiency plan should be stronger


Photo by John Simonson; Flickr

Environmental groups say the state has failed to push Alliant Energy’s Interstate Power & Light far enough on saving energy over the next five years.

The company says it will invest a total of nearly $400 million from ratepayers to fund energy efficiency efforts, almost the same amount as spent in the previous five years. 

To learn more about the issue, head over to the Des Moines Register.