DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate on Monday passed HF 555, a bill that prohibits counties and cities from regulating propane and natural gas sales, by a 29 to 16 mostly party-line vote.
Lawmakers adopted a conforming amendment for SF 455 that allowed them to substitute their bill with HF 555 passed in the Iowa House on March 15 by a 57 to 36 vote.
The House version of the bill offered several exemptions that State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, the bill’s manager, allows “local governments to still continue to do current practices in their due course of action.”
The amendment was passed by a voice vote, and HF 555 replaced SF 455.
State Senator Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said that he was concerned about the “broad language” in the bill. He offered an amendment narrowing the scope of the bill.
“There are a number of activities city government and county government too, for that matter, that I don’t believe are exempted by this language, but are part of the normal regulatory process of the regulatory oversight by city and county government,” he said.
“For example, the safety of gas hookups to individual residences or to commercial facilities, the regulation by zoning of the location of gas storage facilities, the digging in the public right of way for laying or repairing of gas lines, the conditions of delivery of propane, for example, being delivered by truck. All of those are concerns which materially affect public safety and are indeed the legitimate territory for local governments to pass amendments and resolutions,” Quirmbach explained.
“It is still the intent that we preserve the ability of local governments to promote alternative energy. We are going to be looking over the decades for other sources of energy, natural gas, the fracking boom has certainly increased the supply for the time being. But like any fuel dug out of the ground, there was a finite supply. We need to allow cities to prepare for the future. We need to allow cities to respond to environmental concerns,” he added.
Schultz encouraged the Iowa Senate to oppose Quirmbach’s amendment.
“I believe that under the word governance, all of the things that the amendment sponsor mentioned, that he believes are not covered. I believe they are covered in regards to I don’t believe the bill in any way restricts the ability of a city to promote alternative energy. I have to admit, I kind of wish it did a little bit because I’m tired of having it shoved down our throats. But that’s not really here today,” he countered.
Quirmbach’s amendment failed 18 to 27.
State Senator Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, said that the bill is “anti-Iowa.”
“This bill is anti-Iowa. It was written by the methane and propane gas industries to protect those industries. And guess how much methane and propane is produced in Iowa every year? None, zero,” he argued.
Giddens pointed out that the wind and solar energy industries are taking off in Iowa.
“New wind and solar projects are on tap across the state. It’s very exciting, and it’s truly an economic engine for our state. But wind and solar produce electricity, and here in Iowa, we typically heat our buildings, heat our water, and cook with methane and propane gas. So imagine a city here in Iowa that wanted to support Iowa’s clean energy production. So they wrote an ordinance that new homes would have to be equipped with electric driven heat heating systems like geothermal systems, and electric hot water heaters, and electric cooking ranges so that those homes would use Iowa produced clean energy and not use dirty, imported methane and propane gas. That’s what this bill would prohibit. It will prohibit a city from taking charge of and controlling its own clean energy future,” he stated.
State Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, complained that the bill took away local control.
“it’s our weekly anti-democracy bill because that is what local control’s about – local people making local decisions about what’s best for the people. More anti-democracy legislation, autocrats love this bill,” he said.
“Energy sources are changing in America. They’re changing here in Iowa. How we are going to power our homes and businesses in the future is changing – technology we have not conceived of yet, and certainly, the technology that we have today by way of solar energy, wind, other renewables battery storage. What next, Mr. President? Are we going to tell cities they have to use asphalt over concrete?” he argued.
State Senator Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, wanted to counter what Giddens said about methane production in Iowa.
“According to the American Biogas Council, Iowa ranks number eight among U.S. states for methane production potential from biogas sources, currently has 63 operational bio gas systems,” he said.
Schultz, in his closing comments, argued the bill does not strip local control.
“This bill is about having the free opportunity to choose what to heat your home with. See, this doesn’t eliminate local control because Mr. President, the family is the most local level of government you can have, and there are there are people in the metro, and this is happening nationwide. That’s why this bill is showing up in different states who are telling the level of government beneath them, the family, that you can’t use any other form of energy. You have to use the one we want,” he stated.
State Senator Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, joined Republicans supporting the bill. State Senator Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, joined Democrats opposing it. The bill now heads to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk.