January 13, 2008 – Getting Ready for Public Hearing

Tomorrow is a special open session of the Iowa Utility Board to take public comments on the proposed Alliant coal-fired power plant, applying for a permit just outside Marshalltown.  There are a number of reasons I am opposed to building such a plant at this time.  The health, climate, and economic considerations are among the most important.

I realize many others can speak better to the health and climate ramifications – NASA climate expert James Hansen is among those in the expert testimony part of the deliberations.  I thought I’d take a different tack than others and speak to the economic risks.  Each speaker has only two minutes, so here is the statement I will read regarding the owners of the proposed plant and the risks I see for my friends and neighbors.

I would like to thank the Iowa Utilities Board for offering this period of public commentary.

I would like to address the board concerning the management of the coal plant and financial risk to consumers should this plant be built. Quite frankly, it seems like Alliant does not have a very long attention span. Less than two years ago, they sold the Duane Arnold Power plant in southern Iowa to FPL Energy. In the last few months they received permission to sell their power transmission grid to ITC Holdings. I do not understand why a company with the mentality of a day trader would be granted a permit to construct a generating facility shortly after they’ve sold one?

In the current environment, coal-fired plants are now risky enterprises; according to the US Department of Energy, utilities have canceled 14,000 megawatts of planned coal-fired generation and delayed an additional 32,000 megawatts. This is mainly due to properly managing risk. Environmental and political pressures make construction of coal-fired plants risky business. Governor Chet Culver recently signed a regional accord agreeing to lower global warming pollution 60% to 80% by the year 2050. Adding new coal plants contradicts this policy. I’m afraid the management of this company will not have the attention span to manage this risk.

I’m worried Alliant will continue to flip its assets like the recent sales of its generating plant and transmission grid. It is not unlikely that future mandates will require complete carbon capture from coal-fired plants. Alliant management should be fully aware of and financially responsible for this risk. Alliant plans to benefit financially by the operation of this plant; they should assume the risk. I urge the board to make Alliant bear the risk. In other words, if 2, 5, or 10 years from now, complete carbon capture is required, IT SHOULD BE THE MANAGEMENT AND STOCKHOLDERS, not the consumers that bear the risk.

It is not fair for the management and stockholders of Alliant energy to assume all the benefits, and have the consumers assume the future risks of increased costs. Therefore, should the permit be granted, it should only be granted under the condition that any future carbon or pollution controls costs be borne directly by the stockholders and management, not added to the rate structure. It is the duty of the Iowa Utilities Board to safeguard the public interest, not to guarantee a risk-free investment for the management and stockholders of a private company.

one year ago…