Members of the Iowa Legislature who visited with the Marshalltown delegation attending the Des Moines Summit on Thursday said they were as disappointed as anyone about the Alliant Energy decision to not build a coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown.
"You have a community that is stinging from this decision," said Paul Gregoire, a local resident and businessman.
Legislators said they understand that frustration.
T-R PHOTO BY KEN BLACK
Marshalltown resident Paul Gregoire explains to legislators why so many people in Marshalltown are frustrated with the leadership in Des Moines. Gregoire pointed to the perceived lack of support from the state government on the Alliant Energy power plant issue.
"I was the only public official that showed up at the announcement for this," said Sen. Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, who is the Senate majority leader. "I was the only one who showed up and said positive things to the press. No other legislator showed up."
Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, said he was also supportive of the plant, though many in his district did not initially understand why.
Rep. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, the minority leader in the Iowa House, said he also supported the measure and believes the decision Alliant Energy made could have repercussions across the state.
"That sent a signal to the rest of the country that is very, very troubling," McKinley said. "The Iowa Legislature recognized baseload capacity was needed and passed legislation in 2001. There are two ways to do that. You can do it through nuclear and do it through coal."
In fact, no legislator who met with the Marshalltown delegation expressed opposition to the plan. In light of that fact, some with the delegation questioned, if there was broad-based support for the plant, why there was not more leadership from the Iowa Statehouse, especially the governor's office, on the issue.
For his part, Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said he introduced legislation that would change the process for how power plants are permitted in the state.
Among the key provisions he has suggested are: setting a limit of 30 days for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to receive public comments and requiring public hearings to be held only in the county the plant is to be located in and the immediate neighboring counties. There would be an exception made to extend the comment period an additional 15 days if "substantial new issues" are presented.
Sodders attempted to get this passed as an amendment to an appropriations bill but it was later withdrawn because, he said, "it's just not the appropriate vehicle for this legislation."
Now, the best chances for the bill are next year, when the Legislature starts a new session. Sodders said he is already building a base of bipartisan support for the measure.
"I had a couple of my republican colleagues come up to me and tell me they like the amendment and like what I am trying to do," he said.
Contact Ken Black at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org