The Iowa Utilities Board is a three- member policymaking body within the Iowa state government. The board oversees utility service projects that in the state.
“The Iowa Utilities Board regulates utilities to ensure that reasonably priced, reliable, environmentally responsible, and safe utility services are available to all Iowans,” the mission statement reads
IUB members are appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the senate. Staggered six-year terms generally begin on May 1. Vacancies are filled for the unexpired portion of the term in the same manner as full-term appointments are made. Subject to confirmation by the senate, the governor also appoints a member as the chairperson of the IUB.
The current members of the board are chairperson Erik M. Helland, Joshua J. Byrnes and Sarah M. Martz.
Don Tormey, director of communications for the IUB, recently answered a few questions from Iowa Farmer Today about their process and status of some upcoming projects.
IFT: The Iowa Utilities Board was previously under the Department of Commerce. Due to reorganization, the IUB is now its own agency. What will change for your agency?
TORMEY: Nothing has or will change other than removing any references to the Iowa Department of Commerce.
IFT: Carbon pipelines are at the forefront of many Iowan’s minds. What is your role in these projects?
TORMEY: The board members of the IUB and the agency’s staff are dedicated to the delivery of well-reasoned decisions in a timely manner, no matter how difficult.
The IUB’s role regarding an application for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit is dictated by Iowa law (Iowa Code 479B) and IUB rules in Iowa Administrative Code 199-IAC-chapter 13 and chapter 9 on land restoration during and after pipeline construction. Iowa Code chapter 479B gives the IUB authority to issue permits authorizing the construction, operation and maintenance of hazardous liquid pipelines. A company may not construct a hazardous liquid pipeline without first obtaining a permit from the IUB.
IFT: Where are we in the decision- making process or can you give an idea on the timeline we should expect?
TORMEY: Because Summit Carbon was the first company to file for a permit in Docket No. HLP-2021-0001, the IUB continues to review the information for any deficiencies with the petition (application) and petition exhibits. Establishing a procedural schedule would be the next step for the proposed Summit pipeline case.
A partial procedural schedule was set by the IUB on May 19 to establish dates for the filing of prepared testimony; however, no date for a public hearing has been set at this time. On June 6, the IUB conducted a status conference regarding the Summit case where the timing of the public hearing was one of the topics discussed, but no IUB decision has been made. An IUB order will be forthcoming regarding discussions from the status conference and a second status conference is scheduled for July 10.
Once the hearing dates are established, the IUB will issue an order in this docket in the IUB’s electronic filing system and a notice of the hearing will be published for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in each affected county between 10 and 30 days before the hearing date. The purpose of the evidentiary (public) hearing is for the IUB to receive evidence and testimony regarding the proposed project and determine whether a permit should be granted.
At the hearing, the IUB hears evidence in favor of or opposing the proposed pipeline. After the hearing, the IUB will review the docket record and base its final decision on Iowa law and the evidence, testimony and exhibits filed in the docket, and will later issue its final decision either granting the permit, granting the permit with modifications, or denying the permit. Iowa Code section 479B.9 requires the IUB to find that the proposed pipeline “will promote the public convenience and necessity.”
IFT: Outside of the pipelines, what other projects have been prominent for the IUB?
TORMEY: The IUB’s website newsroom page provides information about the various projects that are or have been filed with the IUB.
Editor’s note: Some of these proposals include MidAmerican Energy’s proposed natural gas rate increase, MidAmerican Energy’s Wine PRIME project, and Alliant Energy’s Duane Arnold Solar project along with various other solar projects.
IFT: What do you consider when evaluating a newly proposed project, particularly those that involve farmland and rural communities?
TORMEY: It depends on the type of energy project or request that is filed with the IUB and the IUB’s jurisdiction under Iowa Code and IUB rules that apply to each individual project. If you are referring to a hazardous liquid pipeline, which the proposed CO2 pipeline projects fall under, see my answer to your second question.
IFT: For opponents of any project, what is the most effective way for them to voice their concerns?
TORMEY: There are a few ways that landowners or interested persons can participate in the docket, with varying levels of participation. An individual can file a request for intervention with the IUB and if approved, be a party in the case. Another method is by filing written comments, objections or letters of support in a docket. Only written comments will be part of the case record and considered by the IUB. Written comments can be filed with the IUB by our online comment form, by email or by U.S. Mail.
IFT: Has there been any legislation or new regulations that are causing challenges or opportunities for the agency?