8 hours ago

Axios Des Moines

Hey, it's Friday.

  • 😎 Nice weather ahead: Highs in the low 80s today and all weekend.

Situational awareness: Gov. Kim Reynolds yesterday joined 11 other Republican governors asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to outlaw abortion.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 909 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: A fight to close Iowa coal plants

MidAmerican’s George Neal Center South plant near Sioux City. Photo courtesy of MidAmerican Energy

Environmental groups are ramping up pressure on MidAmerican Energy to shutter its coal plants in Iowa.

Why it matters: While the tug-of-war between financial interests and curbing the use of fossil fuels continues, the debate also raises questions about Iowa's access to reliable sources of energy — and how to accurately forecast our energy needs.

Driving the news: The Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Utilities Board last month, accusing the state panel of neglecting its regulatory obligations.

  • The groups allege that the board refused to consider evidence about the need to retire two of MidAmerican's Sioux City coal plants: George Neal Center North and South.
  • The plants are outdated, dirty and cost ratepayers an extra $17M a year in unnecessary operating costs, scientists hired by the groups have testified.

What they're saying: MidAmerican plans to close its five coal plants by 2049, company spokesperson Geoff Greenwood told Axios.

  • Maintaining a diverse power portfolio that includes coal is important for the foreseeable future in times when sun or wind are not adequate, Greenwood said.
  • Yes, but: IEC believes MidAmerican can safely close the two Neal Center plants now without jeopardizing energy security, Steve Guyer, a policy specialist for the group, told us.

Be smart: MidAmerican and Alliant Energy are the state's two investor-owned electric utilities that supply power to most Iowans.

  • Both companies are transitioning to renewable fuels like wind and solar, and have decommissioned multiple units of their coal plants or converted them to natural gas in the last decade.
  • Alliant will convert its only solely owned Iowa coal plant in Burlington to natural gas by the end of this year, spokesperson Cindy Tomlinson told Jason. Other coal facilities where it's a co-owner will be converted or taken out of its fleet by 2040.

The big picture: The environmental wheels may not be turning fast enough for some, but change is occurring.

Full story.

2. Eviction countdown

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A federal moratorium on evictions expires tomorrow.

Why it matters: Millions of people across the country are facing the threat of being forced out of their homes.

  • That includes more than 30K Iowans at risk of eviction in the next two months, according to the most recent household pulse survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Driving the news: President Biden yesterday called on Congress to extend the moratorium imposed by the CDC, citing the threat of the Delta variant, Axios' Kierra Frazier reports.

  • It's worked as a "critical backstop" during the pandemic, helping hundreds of thousands of people avoid eviction, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Catch up fast: The moratorium, which started in September of 2020, generally prevented landlords from evicting people for nonpayment of rent, if they met eligibility and submitted a declaration saying so.

  • It's been extended multiple times, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled it can't be extended beyond July 31 without congressional approval.

Yes, but: States have struggled to distribute the $47 billion allocated to help people pay rent.

Of note: Allocations separately distributed through Polk County and Des Moines governments are being used.

  • December's allocation of around $14 million has been distributed, said Anne Bacon, director of housing assistance nonprofit IMPACT.
  • A distribution in March, of $11 million, is being allocated now and can be spent through September of 2025.

What's next: You won't see mass evictions at the stroke of midnight if Congress doesn't act by Saturday, Bacon said.

  • But evictions will pick up over the course of the next month or so, she predicted.

Resources: Iowa Legal Aid, 1-800-532-1275; IMPACT, 515-518-4770.

3. The Ear: Cobs of headlines

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

💵 Former Iowa Veterans Home commandant Timon Oujiri was knowingly overpaid more than $105K during a period of about two years, prior to when he was fired by Gov. Kim Reynolds, according to a state audit released yesterday. (Des Moines Register)

🏥 Owners of six DSM metro hospitals are considering employee vaccination requirements. (Des Moines Register)

🥪 Free meals will be available to all Des Moines Public Schools students in the upcoming school year, regardless of income, the district announced yesterday. (Press release)

🥦 More free food: A new mobile food pantry launches next week at Merle Hay Mall's Applebee's south parking lot, DMARC announced. It'll be held on Tuesday's from 4-6pm.

🏇🏼 Prairie Meadows unknowingly violated an Iowa law for more than three decades by taking bets on foreign races. The practice was shut down for a few months last year until a new law took effect on July 1, allowing the bets to resume. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

🌽 Thank you for the ear pun, Diana Deibler of Johnston.

4. 🧀 1 yummy thing to go: #SayCheeseDSM

Jason's breakfast. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

👋 Jason here: I gobbled a grilled cheese for breakfast a few weeks ago at the Downtown Farmer's Market. I'd feel guilty except it was delicious and worth it.

What I ate: The classic with bacon ($7).

  • American + cheddar + bacon = Love.

Their next showing at the downtown market is Aug. 21. (They're serving up goodies on RAGBRAI this week.)

Say Cheese is a regular at the Downtown Farmer's Market. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

A few weekend ideas:

🎉 Have a great weekend.

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