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Nuclear power plan clears committee; Senate passage expected

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

DES MOINES — Legislation to create a regulatory framework for small-scale nuclear energy production moved to the full Senate Tuesday night by the narrowest of margins.

The bill, which would direct MidAmerican Energy to make seek approval of a nuclear power plant, was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee 8-7. It is expected to fare better in the full Senate where backers believe it has broader bipartisan support.

Two Democrats and six Republicans voted for the bill, which if approved will go back to the House where it was approved last year. Six Democrats and a Republican opposed the bill.

The bill’s floor manager, Commerce Committee Chairman Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, urged senators to support the plan that will allow MidAmerican to “walk this thing around Wall Street… (and) raise some money.”

However, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, argued it’s not investors, but ratepayers, who will assume the risk of the project.

“This puts all the risk on ratepayers … on seniors, small businesses, families, farmers in a way that we shouldn’t do,” he said.

Bolkcom also called it “bad energy policy” that ignores Iowa’s strength as a producer of energy from renewable sources.

Those voting for the bill were Democrats McCoy, and Sen. Tom Rielly of Oskaloosa, and Republican Sens. Bill Anderson, Pierson; Rick Bertrand, Sioux City; Randy Feenstra, Hull; Steve Kettering, Lake View; Pat Ward, Clive; and Brad Zaun, Urbandale.

Opposing the bill were Bolkcom and fellow Democratic Sens. Daryl Beall, Fort Dodge; Tom Courtney, Burlington; Liz Mathis, Cedar Rapids; Brian Schoenjahn, Arlington; Joe Seng, Davenport; and Mary Jo Wilhelm, Cresco.

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