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IEC & ELPC Oppose MidAmerican Plan to Dump Toxins in Missouri River

Originally published on 4/12/23 in IEC's newsroom

The Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center submitted comments to MidAmerican Energy earlier this month opposing a plan for the utility to dump toxic coal ash leachate into the Missouri River. The leachate, runoff that collects at the bottom of the site’s coal ash landfill, contains dozens of toxic pollutants, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, and other toxic heavy metals.

On March 15, MidAmerican issued a public notice in the local newspaper seeking comment on its proposal to discharge the leachate into the Missouri River. MidAmerican’s analysis identified potential treatment options, but proposes not to use any of them, opting instead for the simpler and cheaper process of dumping into the river.

"MidAmerican is proposing to discharge a range of heavy metals, like mercury, that it has the ability to treat," said Steve Guyer, IEC Energy Policy Manager. "EPA is telling utilities to treat the leachate, not send it directly to the river."

While MidAmerican states that the toxins in the leachate are within EPA requirements, no amount of mercury or lead is safe for consumption. These toxic metals also bioaccumulate, meaning wildlife and humans that are exposed accumulate the toxins in their tissue over time.

IEC and ELPC’s comments highlight that the analysis completely failed to justify degrading the Missouri River, which is required by the Clean Water Act. It also ignored an EPA rulemaking announced before MidAmerican’s plan went on public notice, which will require coal plants to fully treat leachate before discharge in the very near future.

"MidAmerican’s analysis is inconsistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and state law. It must go back to the drawing board and provide treatment for the coal ash leachate," said Josh Mandelbaum, ELPC Senior Attorney.

Thank you to everyone who submitted comments on MidAmerican’s plan to discharge mercury, lead, and other pollutants into the Missouri River. MidAmerican must summarize the comments and submit it to DNR which evaluates MidAmerican’s proposal. If DNR finds it satisfactory, DNR would provide a draft permit for public comment. IEC will be on the lookout for notice of that draft permit and will let you know of any problems we find.

Iowa Energy News 

State rejects $3M in climate planning funding

Iowa joined Florida, South Dakota, and Kentucky as one of only four states that did not apply for a $3 million federal climate grant, citing overlap with an existing initiative known as the 2016 Iowa Energy Plan, according to state officials.

The federal Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) were offered to every state as a part of the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act, intended for projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions. This decision also made the state ineligible for phase II of the program, which earmarks $4.6 billion for local and state governments.

Iowa's three largest metros — Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport — can still apply for citywide grants and potentially be eligible to compete in the next phase, IEC's executive director, Brian Campbell, told Axios. But rural communities will be left out because of the decision. 

Legislative session update — energy highlights

The Senate recently amended and passed HF 617, a bill that requires the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to undertake a review of utility regulation and ratemaking in Iowa, calling out the need to ensure utility rates are based on the cost to serve Iowa customers and that the Board should consider procedures in other states that help keep rates competitive. IEC is supportive of this legislation and hopes that the House will take it up quickly to move it forward before the end of Session.

The Senate also took up the confirmations of two new IUB appointees. Erik Helland was confirmed as IUB chair, replacing current chair Geri Huser but taking over the seat currently held by Dick Lozier for a 6-year term. Sarah Martz was also confirmed as a new Board Member and will be taking Huser’s remaining term, which runs through 2027. Both appointees begin work on May 1. Read more in our latest Legislative News Bulletin.

Clean Energy Districts of Iowa launches new website

Energy Districts are local institutions that lead, implement, and accelerate locally-owned, inclusive, clean energy transitions. They create change through principal strategies of energy planning, market transformation, public engagement, advocacy, and readiness. In the process, Energy Districts create local jobs and retain and grow wealth, and simultaneously reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. 

The Clean Energy Districts of Iowa (CEDI) is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2019 to provide support and technical assistance to its member Energy Districts in counties across Iowa. CEDI recently launched a new website aimed to help strengthen and spread the clean Energy District model. Here, visitors can learn more about the work of existing districts across Iowa, access resources on how to start a district, and find relevant news and events. 

Featured Video

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Explainer

In August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law. The IRA is the largest climate investment in U.S. History, supporting $370 billion in programs that benefit households, businesses, and communities. Implementation of IRA programs would put the country on the path of reducing emissions 40% by 2030. Watch the full explainer video on our YouTube page and Learn more about opportunities for Iowans by visiting www.iafederalfunding.org.

Upcoming IEC Events

Rally for a Coal-Free Future in Omaha

Berkshire Hathaway Energy runs one of the largest coal fleets in the nation, including six MidAmerican Energy coal plants operating here in Iowa.

On Saturday May 6, Berkshire is hosting an annual shareholder meeting in Omaha and we’ll be there to tell leadership that we won't wait until 2049 to see the end of coal. We want to see a big crowd calling for change and it would be great to have you there! If you are interested in the rally in Omaha, please sign-up using this form for more details and be sure to follow the Facebook event page.

Join us for Pro H2O's 10th Anniversary

Clean energy and clean water go hand-in-hand towards creating a a just, healthy environment and sustainable future for all Iowans. Gather in downtown Des Moines on Thursday, June 15 to celebrate ten years of clean water advocacy through Pro H2O! 

Get your tickets by April 30 using code "PRO2023" to save $10 off tickets and make your plans to celebrate with IEC! Interested in sponsoring or know someone who might want to support the event? Sponsorships are still available — earn more and sign up here.

Upcoming Energy Events

4/28: Inflation Reduction Act Funding Clinic, Southeast Iowa Sierra Club 

5/2: World Asthma Day

5/4: Energy Trends Workshop, IWRC 

5/4: Green Drinks – Des Moines, Urban Ambassadors 

5/6: Rally for a Coal-Free Future, IEC and Sierra Club Iowa Beyond Coal 

5/17-18: Advancing Towards 100% Clean Energy, US DOE and partners 

5/24: Highway to Healthy Schools, NBI 

Have an relevant event we don't have listed here? Submit an event to be considered for our Event Calendar.

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