Environmental groups applaud the Iowa regulators’ order to release MidAmerican Energy’s classified planning studies

DESMOINES, Iowa, January 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — To January 19, 2023, in MidAmerican Energy’s Wind PRIME litigation, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an order releasing two-generation planning studies that MidAmerican has aggressively and repeatedly attempted to keep secret from regulators and the public. The studies include an assessment of the economics of MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants and a study of ways to achieve zero-carbon electricity.

Several parties, including the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club, argued that the public deserves to see the studies to provide insight into whether MidAmerican’s proposal stands $3.9 billion Wind PRIME’s investment compares commensurately to alternatives such as additional development of solar and battery storage and the closure of its six expensive and aging coal-fired power plants, which are massive sources of carbon dioxide and other pollution.

After initially refusing to even make the studies available to its own regulatory bodies, MidAmerican had made the studies available to IUB and some parties to the case, but maintained that the studies should be withheld from the general public altogether. IEC, ELPC and Sierra Club questioned this attempt to keep the information secret. The IUB agreed last week that parts of the studies should be public. Its order reads in part: “It is difficult to imagine a more effective decision for the Iowa Taxpayers within MidAmerican’s utility monopoly as a long-term, multi-billion dollar investment strategy for the provision of power generation assets.”

The regulation further states: “If the board is to ensure fair and reasonable tariffs for a utility’s customers, the board and other stakeholders in the process must have access to all study results relating to the prudence of the utility’s decisions, not just the results of studies favorable to the case of the utility.”

The committee’s order “denies the request for confidentiality of the studies in their entirety on one of the grounds requested.”

MidAmerican has 14 days to seek an injunction to keep the information from the public. In the absence of a court order, the studies will be published in redacted form by the Iowa Utilities Board February 2, 2023.

“With the executive order, MidAmerican should stop hiding information that directly impacts its proprietary customers,” he said Kerry Johannsen, director of the energy program at the Iowa Environmental Council. “MidAmerican owes it to its clients to let the facts speak for themselves and not hide behind debunked claims of confidentiality when billions of dollars are at stake.”

The Board’s resolution determined that the information contained in the studies is for a public purpose because of its relevance to MidAmerican’s proposed Wind PRIME investment. The order stated: “There is a significant public purpose and interest in disclosing the non-confidential information. The unedited portions of the studies will allow participants in the dossier and the general public to…evaluate the Wind PRIME proposal.”

“This is a victory for transparency and accountability for MidAmerican Energy’s customers,” he said Josh Mandelbaum, senior counsel for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Other utilities across the country need to make this type of information available to the public to ensure they are spending their money wisely. MidAmerican should not be given any special exception to this principle.”

“MidAmerican asks for your unconditional support of his 4 billion dollars Wind PRIME proposal, although a recent analysis by Synapse Energy Economics shows there is more cheaper way for Iowa customers that would put the utility on a path 100% clean energy,” said Laurie Williams, senior attorney at the Sierra Club. “The public deserves to have the information relevant to MidAmerican’s decision and to determine whether their plan to continue to rely on polluting and expensive coal is correct Iowa Customers.”

SOURCE Iowa Environmental Council

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