#StopBurningCoal

I was talking with my friend Jake Grobe, of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) recently as we were working at the Des Moines Mutual Aid free food project. (see: Des Moines Mutual Aid Networking). He knows I am a photographer and asked me to take photos at the Iowa Energy Center Meeting yesterday. The reason for going to the meeting is MidAmerican’s CEO Kelcey Brown has refused multiple requests to meet with ICCI and she was going to be at this meeting.

Jake is ICCI’s Climate Justice Organizer. From his bio: He believes that climate justice is an intersectional fight for racial, economic, and social justice. “Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

“Climate justice is an intersectional fight for racial, economic, and social justice” is the premise of Religious Socialism. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/

Jake said, “our climate justice team organized this action. We had the intention of shutting down the meeting if we were ignored and did because these coal plants are a leading contributor to the climate crisis which is an existential threat to everything we love.”

There were handouts (below) and signs. And preparation prior to going into the building together. Jake summarized the intention of the meeting, the issues, and what the action would be if the board did not address their coal power plants. Including leaving as a group if the police were called. No arrests were planned. The police were called and showed up right after we walked out of the building.

Here is what Iowa Energy Center Board’s agenda was supposed to be: https://www.iowaeda.com/board-agenda/ieda-energyfeb22/

Our group entered the conference room quietly. Signs were kept out of sight by hiding them under coats. When the meeting asked if anyone wished to speak during public comments, four people from our group raised their hand (who had prepared ahead of time what they would say). Each person was allotted two and a half minutes.

When the first person began speaking, the signs “Your Greed Kills. MidAmerican Iowa’s #1 Polluter” were uncovered and passed among us. But everyone listened quietly with some finger snapping to support certain comments.

When the time for public comments had expired, Jake continued to speak. Asking Kelcey Brown to explain why MidAmerican was not going to shut down their five coal plants, raising many of the points in the handout below. Kelcey Brown said something like thanks for your comments and then didn’t respond when Jake made the ask that she meet with us to discuss our demands. When he kept going after that she briskly walked out. 

Jake continued to speak over calls from the board that the time for public comments was over. He spoke about the existential threat of greenhouse gas emissions. Asking if members of the board weren’t worried how their own children would be affected. He pointed out MidAmerican’s development of wind power wouldn’t matter if they continued burning coal until 2049.

This made me think of the term, going into the belly of the beast, meaning “being in the middle of a very bad situation or a dangerous place.” Also, “speaking truth to power.”

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.

Jake Grobe

The issue of CO2 pipelines came up, which we are definitely against.

Jake and a few others in our group continued to ask questions. After some time, the board adjourned, and we were told it was time to leave. Jake said a few more things, then asked us if we were ready to go. In the preparation Jake said we would leave on our own terms, and we did.

Katie Bryan, ICCI’s communication director called me prior to the action to make sure I knew there might be some intervention at the meeting. And we discussed how I would get the photos to her. She also suggested if possible, sharing photos as the action was occurring. Not being adept at either using my phone camera, or using twitter, I did manage to send her the photo that she was able to use in the tweets below.

Our Demands

  • Shut down coal plants by 2030 at the latest 
  • No utility shut offs and utility bill relief for working people who don’t qualify for LIHEAP 
  • Reinvest into energy efficiency programs above pre-2018 levels

Facts 

MidAmerican Energy is the single biggest carbon polluter in the state

  • They own five coal-powered plants to generate electricity and plan to keep burning coal until 2049
  • A report of MidAmerican’s electricity generation in 2020 shows that all the electricity they generated from coal was in excess of Iowa’s needs 
  • In fact, nearly a third of all the electricity they generated was sold to other utilities out of the state for $124.3 million
  • It’s clear that MidAmerican Energy is burning coal for greed, not for need. And we’re paying the price. 
  • In 2020, the excess coal generation in Iowa sent 16,977,124 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, representing economic harm ranging from $865 million to $2.58 billion.
  • Sponsoring a *small* fleet of electric buses in our city is a greenwashing scheme and an empty gesture when you consider that in order to offset the last two years of MidAm’s C02 emissions, they’d have to electrify 193,000 buses! 

MidAmerican Energy is making working families pay more to keep their homes warm

  • In 2018, MidAmerican spent over $100,000 dollars to lobby Republicans in the Iowa state legislature to pass a bill that made massive cuts to energy efficiency programs
  • This included $9,000 to State Rep. Gary Carlson who spearheaded the bill, $16,000 to Republican Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, $11,5000 to Republican Senate president Jake Chapman, $10,000 to Republican House Majority Leader Pat Grassley, and $10,000 to Kim Reynolds since 2018
  • Since that bill passed, working families are getting less help to weatherize their homes to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer
  • MidAmerican Energy reported kilowatt-hour savings for 2020 that were 64% lower than what the utility achieved the year before the law took effect.
  • Now, MidAmerican customers are paying twice as much for their heat and 61,000 Iowan families have been forced to apply for utility assistance because they can’t pay their bills!  
  • Meanwhile – MidAmerican is on track to make over a billion in yearly profits, another record year! 
  • This is corporate greed and political corruption at it’s finest! 

MidAmerican Energy could save ratepayers over $1 billion by retiring their coal fleet by 2030

Study published by Synapse Energy Economics, a nationally recognized energy analytics firm

  • Recent expert analysis shows that retiring MidAm’s coal fleet by 2030 and replacing it with solar, wind, battery storage, and energy efficiency would save ratepayers $1.2 billion through 2040, while creating high-quality jobs for Iowans.
  • $1.2 billion is their conservative estimate! — In the likely scenario that high gas prices continue and we finally see a national tax on carbon emissions, MidAm would save $5 billion by retiring its coal fleet by 2030 instead of allowing it to remain online indefinitely!!!! 
  • That same scenario would also reduce carbon emissions by 318 million tons by 2040!
  • When the captive customers of MidAmerican pay for their power, they certainly are not agreeing to health impacts or death as a part of the deal. Yet, MidAmerican corporate greed results in 5 to 13 Iowans dying per year and increases the health care costs of Iowans by $64,681,145 to $145,675,343.  

MidAmerican Energy is poisoning Iowa’s water

  • MidAmerican has coal plants and stores ash on the banks of the Missouri, Des Moines, and Mississippi rivers, at least 3 sites have been found to be polluting groundwater above federal advisory levels 
  • MidAmerican emissions are worsening the climate crisis which is making droughts worse and drying up Iowa’s waterways. Hotter temperatures combined with lesser water flow is increasing blue-green algae blooms which make the water toxic. This has gotten so bad, that the major water sources for the Des Moines metro area have been untappable at times during the last two summers. 
  • Water is life!

#StopBurningCoal

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