Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winning Some, Losing Some

freudenthal_wy_gov_compressed This is the winning one:

The Iowa Senate approved a bill that would allow an Iowa energy company to raise fees to pay for a study on the feasibility of building a nuclear power plant in the state. The bill is a stepping stone in what lawmakers called a scramble to turn to carbon-neutral energy sources.

In other words, Iowa wants to have a plant if a plant makes sense there. It won handily, too:

The bill easily passed 37-13, but opponents raised questions about the disposal of nuclear waste, why nuclear had priority over other forms of renewable energy and whether lawmakers should back a rate fee hike during the recession. MidAmerican would charge a fee increase of 0.5 percent of its revenues to collect $15 million to conduct the study.

We guess that answers the last one – which means the opponents were pulling arguments out of a hat – and the first belongs to the federal government. The second seems fair enough, so we breezed on over to MidAmerican’s Web site to see what they might be doing in this regard. Answer:

MidAmerican Energy Company, our Iowa-based utility subsidiary, is No. 1 in the nation in ownership of wind-powered electric generation among rate-regulated utilities and has more than 1,200 megawatts of wind energy facilities in operation, under construction and under contract in Iowa.

Landowners who agreed to install turbines on their land receive an annual per-turbine payment from the utility, which provides local agricultural-based economies with a new cash crop.

So as far as we can tell, that’s another one out of the hat. We think the opponents of this bill are sore losers.

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This is the losing one:

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal vetoed three bills, including one that called for creating a task force to encourage nuclear energy production in the state.

And why might he do that?

In his written veto message of the nuclear energy production study bill, House Bill 97, Freudenthal stated it seemed to be focused more at holding meetings and media forums than on real analytical work.

While the bill called for studying nuclear storage issues, Freudenthal noted that the Legislature already had passed a law on the issue in the mid-1990s, giving itself complete authority over siting, construction and operation of storage facilities.

"While such a study may benefit a select few, I fail to see a compelling need to spend time and money on this issue at this time," Freudenthal wrote.

This one is kind of an “eh” outcome – it sounds as though Freudenthal is tossing bills to keep his state’s budget balanced and it may also be he doesn’t care for task forces. (Freudenthal doesn’t seem anti-nuclear per se. See here for more – he really likes uranium mining but has good things to say about nuclear energy, too.)

And of course, the Iowa measure could well be vetoed, too – and the Wyoming veto might be overridden.

The more important point to take away from these two stories is that the states are starting to work with nuclear energy within their energy policies. We’ll see  more bills addressing nuclear energy in the coming few years – much as we’d prefer legislative success, even the failures are for that year only and show forward momentum regardless of local outcome.

So, success, good, failure, less good but fine. We’ll take it all for what it portends.

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal. He has a bucking bronco on his tie – that probably goes over very well in Wyoming.

2 comments:

Meredith Angwin said...

Great post, because it acknowledges the nuances of pro and anti-nuclear in politics. In Vermont, we definitely have our hard-core antis, LOTS of them, but we also have people who have concerns with the Entergy-Enexus spin-off, the statements made by VY about underground pipes, and whether we can get all the power we need from HydroQuebec. It's never simple, except in the view of the committed antis. They make the most noise, of course.

Anonymous said...

Gov. Freudenthal may be right. You probably don't need another task force or study group. You're either going to do it or not, depending on the local power markets. Wyoming is a geographically large but very sparsely populated state. It's largest city is in the range of 50,000 people. Maybe a small modular reactor might work for that, but otherwise, large, centralized power production may not be the best choice here.